Can Restorative Justice Reduce Incarceration? A Story From China

Yan Zhang, Yiwei Xia

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    This paper attempts to investigate the capacity of restorative justice (RJ) to reduce incarceration in China. It utilizes a "top-down" approach to explore how macro transitions in Chinese politics and criminal justice translate into micro implementation of RJ, which ultimately affects incarceration. Interviews with Chinese police, prosecutors, and judges revealed how minor injury cases were diverted by RJ throughout the criminal justice system. In addition, 172,731 judicial judgments were coded to estimate RJ's effect on sentencing lengths and the probability of probation for offenders. The findings suggest that the Chinese approach to implementing RJ does liberate numerous offenders from harsher incarceration. Yet, Chinese RJ reforms remain a thin version without deep roots in civil society, in "bottom-up" social movement excellence, or thorough foundations in restorative Confucianism with roots in ancient Chinese society. RJ is still a marginalized part of a Titanic that resists turning away from the punitive "Strike-Hard" ideology.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1471-1491
    JournalJustice Quarterly
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - 2021


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