Police Discretion and Restorative Justice in China: Stories from the Street-level Police

Yan Zhang

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Based on ethnographic data collected from one local police station in China, this article attempts to examine the use of discretion by Chinese police in three different restorative justice (RJ) programs. With reference to Wilson's organizational style of policing, the hybridity of watch-man, legalistic and service style in Chinese policing is identified, which can help conceptualize how police decision over mediation work has been institutionally co-shaped. This article also deploys Lipsky's street-level bureaucracy with specific focuses on how the police select cases and facilitate an agreement between stakeholders. Coping strategies defined by Lipsky are found to be employed by the police to confront their huge workload and complicated cases. Overall, RJ in China is primarily promoted as universal top-down national reforms; meanwhile, police discretion, catalyzed by bureaucratic rationalities and the political imperative of social order and stability, is conducive to both the divergence and convergence between RJ in law-books and in action.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalInternational Journal of Offender Therapy and Criminology
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


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