An International Journal

Participatory Reintergrative Shaming Conferences

by Andrew J. Hund, Humboldt State University 1999

Delinquency is a social construct, which stigmatizes individuals with a label and frequently leads to more non-normative behavior. The current thinking in society is that the individual should be punished rather than the negative behavior(s) (crime). Consequently, the individual is stigmatized as deviant and the behavior(s) are amplified through role association. In simpler terms, crime and delinquency are primarily behavioral problems not individual character flaws. Therefore, in order for youths' behaviors to be changed a positive transformation has to occur in the community and in the approach it uses to punish youth violators of social norms.

The purpose of this paper is to practice or apply sociology. Specifically, this paper attempts to establish a basis for the creation of an innovative program, which utilizes a new structure for the community and introduces reintegrative shaming as a social control method for youth. More specifically, it establishes a practical social control system that fosters community participation via a conference. This paper is divided into three parts. The first section is a brief history of the field of criminology and its theoretical backgrounds. The next section discusses reintegrative shaming in depth and the last section provides a practical approach to implementing reintegrative shaming conference.


The study of crime includes several areas, such as what causes it, who commits such non-normative behaviors, as well as prevention, deterrence, treatment and punishment of infractions. There are five major theoretical areas in the history of criminology: classical, positivists, critical, realist, and feminists. Before discussing these areas, the notion of what criminology is as a discipline must be explored.

Criminology is the "systematic study of the nature, extent, etiology, and control of law breaking behavior" (Henry 1996: 236). In essence, criminologists attempt to study criminals by developing explanations for criminal behavior in terms of biology, psychology, sociology, or the political economy of the particular culture. In the 1970's and 1980's, two sub-fields (critical and feminists) of criminology developed. Both of these fields had external and internal influences upon the discipline. The feminists approach "drew attention to the near invisibility of women in criminological work and gave significant impetus to rectifying the past neglect of victims of crime" (Marshall 1994: 98). These theoretical viewing points will be discussed in more depth later in this paper. The roots of criminology were founded in the 18th century. Today, these criminological thinkers from the 18th century and their theories are classified under the title of classical criminology.

Classical Criminology

As mentioned before, classical criminology was established in 18th century and is philosophically based. The study of criminal activity in the classic-sense focused on criminology and the management of justice. The basic principles of classic criminology are grounded in the notion of rational choice, personal accountability, and the belief that crime was prevented by the punishment. The study of crime began with Cesare Beccaria's book "Dei delitti e delle pene," which was published in 1764. "Dei delitti e delle pene," is generally interpreted as a humane alternative or reaction to the brutal 18th century sentencing and punishment of offenders such as public beheading, hangings, and breaking people on the wheel. In essence, this was a social contract is a rational agreement in the best interest of the individual and society. To break this 'rational' contract, is to break the laws of society, which demonstrates a free will action and a failure to meet one's social responsibilities to the community (Marshall, 1994, 99).This rationalist approach sought to achieve bureaucratic conformity, such as making the non-normative actions fit the punishments in order to deter others from future wrongdoings.

Critics, however, pointed out that this approach does not take into consideration the circumstances that lead to the non-normative infraction. This results in punishments being unjust in certain circumstances. For example, a wife who has been repeatedly abused, has enough one-day, and kills her husband. From a rational approach, she would be punished the same as any other murderer. Not surprisingly, this short-sided approach lead to the study of crime causation, which resulted in the classicist free will rationality being replaced in 19th century with positivists criminology.

Positivists Criminology

Positivist criminology is different than the positivism in social and psychological theory. This approach is committed to the practical application of theory and research. It claimed scientific status because it was quantifiable and sought to determine the source of crime, which was thought to be rooted in the individual's physical, genetic, psychological, and/or moral make-up. The tools positivist criminologists utilize are standard scientific measures such as hypothesis testing, pragmatic investigation, classification, and categorization of phenomenon (Marshall, 1994, 100).

The origin of positivists' criminology can be found in the writings of Italian criminologists Enrico Ferri (The Positive School of Criminology, 1901), Raffaele Gerefelo; and Cesare Lombroso (L'Uomo Delinguente, 1876). Cesare Lombroso claimed criminals had certain physical features, which enabled criminologists to easily identify them as 'throwbacks' to some early primitive state. Many criminologists call this approach 'biological positivism,' which remained an essential feature in criminology until the 1960's (Marshall, 1994, 100).

Eleanor and Sheldon Glvecks in the 1950's believed they could identify criminals by their body size and shape. This approach lead to the XXY chromosome theory of the 1960's. Klinefelter's Syndrome is the scientific name for people with an extra X chromosome. This XXY theory claimed that people with an extra X chromosome were more likely to commit crimes and could be identified by their biological, genetic, and physical features. For example, people with an extra chromosome tended to be males who were taller, underdeveloped, lacked facial hairs, had round bodies, and were frequently infertile. In essence, biological positivists were attempting to be able to identify criminals by looking at them.

Another popular theorist from this school, Hans Eysenck (see, Crime and Personality, 1977), argued that 'criminality' is obviously a continuous trait of some kind of intelligence, height, or weight. However, this biological determinists or behaviorists view of crime is value-loaded and deals with social constructs rather than with scientific facts. Biological determinism also overlooks the importance of beliefs, values, and purpose. These shortcomings or outright bad science ushered in other theories to explain crime, such as critical, realist, and feminist criminology (Marshall, 1994, 100).

Critical Criminology

Critical criminology also called radical criminology, emerged, in the early 1970's as an extremely politicized theory. The foundation of critical criminology is based on the tradition of Marxism. It is based on the conflict perspective and thus investigates the oppressive power of the capitalist state. Specifically, critical criminologists examine crime in relation to its definition and prevention with regards to the exploitative power of capitalists. A broad overview of this approach was complied by Ian Taylor, Paul Walton, and Jock Young, in the book The New Criminology, 1973. Critical criminology is judgmental of the behaviorist approach of positivist criminology as well as the apolitical approach of the labeling theory (see Becker 1963). Initially, critical criminology was criticized by mainstream researchers as being too polemical, such as romanticizing criminals as political resistors to capitalism, and rigidly focusing on power dynamics, and thus neglecting crime and its victims (Marshall, 1994, 99).

As critical criminology developed in the 1970's and 1980's, it rediscovered its own radical history (see G. Rosche & O. Kirrchhimer, Punishment and Social Structure, 1968: [1939]), which the critical researchers claimed had been obscured by 'bourgeois' criminology of the past. Today, critical criminology has allied itself with cultural studies and researches race, racism, the state, and youth subcultures from a neo-Marxists perspective. Additionally, critical criminology has strengthened its commitment to the elimination of prisons, better gender accountability of the police, and published a series studies on the institutions of the criminal justice system (see Critical Criminal Justice Issues: Task Force Reports From the American Society of Criminology to Attorney General Janet Reno, 1997). However, critics on the left, primarily realist criminologists, have dismissed many of their notions as left idealism (Marshall, 1994, 99).

Realist Criminology

Another name for realist criminology is 'left realism.' This theory developed in the mid 1980's, as a result of the publications of Jock Young and others in Britain (see, for example, the special issue of Contemporary Crisis, 1987). Their followers emphasized the need to investigate the social causes of crime as well as the interaction between agencies of social control (such as the police and courts), the offender, the victim, and the public (neighborhood or community). Realist's criminologists base their ideas on theories of relative deprivation and subcultures. They seek to examine the restrictive circumstances facing the individuals that lead to the non-normative behavior. The notion of reintegrative shaming emerged, in part, from this theoretical perspective (Marshall, 1994, 100).

Feminists Criminology

Feminists criminology is a self-conscious corrective model designed to correct mainstream criminological thinking. As a theoretical point of view it has triple goals, which seek to critique, research, and reformulate the field of inquiry. Feminist criminology seeks to change the masculine viewing angle to a less masculine focus. In the 1970's, feminist criminology emerged out of the women's movement and feminist thinking. It sought to respond to the so-called new deviance theory and critical criminology, which ignored women (Marshall, 1994, 99).\par \tab The first major work published on feminist criminology was "Women, Crime, and Criminology" in 1977 by British sociologists Carol Smart. This publication was a critical review of the discipline of criminology, which stimulated others to investigate many issues surrounding crime. In America, feminist criminology had a more controversial start with researchers claiming violence against women was increasing as well as a rally call for a new feminist consciousness (see F. Alder's Sisters in Crime, 1975). Since this time, the field has started to explore many different areas, such crime and control as well as the sexist foundations of criminology. feminists' have effectively incorporated gender into criminology and with it inaugurated the discussion of why crime is primarily a male phenomenon (Marshall, 1994, 99).

Other Notable Theorists

There are various theoretical traditions that have also been used by criminologists to study crime such as the labeling theory (Becker, 1963), subcultural theory (Cohen 1955), opportunity or strain theory (Cloward and Ohlin 1960; Merton 1968), control theory (Hirschi 1969), constitutive theory (Henry and Milovanovic 1999), differential association (Sutherland and Crossey 1978), and social learning theory (Akers et al. 1979). Criminologists theories designed to be used in the practical sense are: making amends (Wright 1982); restorative justice (Cragg 1992; Galaway & Hudson 1990; Zehr 1990), reconciliation (Dignan 1992; Marshall 1985; Umbreit 1985), peacemaking (Pepinsky & Quinnery 1991), redress (De Haan 1990), relational justice (Burnside and Baker 1994), transformative justice (Ruth Morris 1995; Moore with Forsythe 1995: 253), real justice (McDonald et al. 1995), republican justice (Braithwaite and Petit 1990), and feminists abolitionism (Meima 1990) (Braithwaite and Mugford 1994:139 & Makkai and Braithwaite 1994: 362). All of these sub-theories and major theoretical traditions have sought to explain crime from their various perspectives. As a result, these various theoretical traditions have given way to the newest development in criminology, which is restorative justice.

Restorative Justice

In the 1990's, many criminologists started to examine restorative justice. Restorative justice focuses on two things, restorativeness and a democratic process. Braithwaite (1997) claimed restorative justice became a "unifying banner, sweeping up various traditions of justice" (p. 3). Van Ness (1993) and Bazemore and Washington (1995) have credited Albert Eglash (1975) with being the first to initiate the restorative justice approach, which attempts to satisfy conservatives and liberals.

Restorative justice is seen as an alternative to the current pendulum swing of corrective models of liberal (welfare/rehabilitation) and conservative (justice/retribution) modes of punishment. Zehr (1990) claimed that "restorative justice is touted as a long-overdue third model or new 'lens,'" to examine crime (p. 213). This new lens or viewing angle is a way of stopping the pendulum from swinging back and forth, between the liberal welfare model of a less punitive justice, and the conservatives justice model, which focuses on victim and family empowerment, and the use of punishment as a means to reduce crime, and reducing the economic costs (Braithwaite 1997: 2).

Reintegrative shaming, a notion of restorative justice, is not conceived in the classical, positivist, critical, realists, or feminists criminological theory per se. Instead, it is founded in the ideas of "Canadian Native people's notions of healing circles and sentencing circles (James 1993). . . [as well as] Navajo Justice and Healing Ceremony" (Yazzie and Zion 1996). This new theory of criminology has merged the notions of the indigenous people methods of punishment with western criminology. With the former having more significance over the latter. However, the restorative justice movement has not been accepted by all groups. Braithwaite (1997) asserted that "the strongest opposition has come from lawyers, including some judges, under the influence of well-known critiques of the justice of informal processing of crime" (p. 3). This seems logical because they are the people who will be displaced if restorative justice and/or reintegrative shaming become widespread.

Sociological and Psychological Views of Shame

Before discussing reintegrative shaming in-depth, the notion of shame must be explored, which psychologists and sociologists have been examining for sometime. The leading sociologist studying shame is Braithwaite who claims shame occurs on two levels: "internally, through our socialization and our sense of right and wrong (conscience) and externally through sanctions or condemnations from family, community or important others" (Coles 1999: 5). Sociologists perceive shame as a social construct that is socialized by wrongdoing.

Psychologists have been studying the emotion of shame since the 1960's. Tomkins (1962) proposed the "Affect Theory" and published three volumes describing nine emotional traits humans exhibit. Two of these traits are positive (interest/excitement; enjoyment) and seven are negative (Shame/humiliation; surprise/startle; distress/anguish; disgust; anger/rage; dismal; fear/terror). Tomkins (1963) believed these traits are innate and thus every human is born with them.

Building upon Tomkins' Affect theory was Nathanson (1992), a psychologist, who identified four emotional responses to shame, such as attack other, withdrawal, avoidance, and attack self. Males frequently use the 'attack other' when placed in a situation of shame. Nathanson (1992) also believed shame was an inborn trait of all humans. Furthermore, Nathanson's theory, is based on a scientific foundation, which he claims "shame is caused by a substance secreted in the ancient subcortial portion of the brain, a compound that causes the sudden dilation of the blood vessels in the brain resulting in the feeling of shame" (Alternative Justice Canada 1999: 2). Shame is inborn and is concluded to have a biological foundation.

With the traditions of psychology and sociology in mind, it should be noted that reintegrative shaming is tied to three major backgrounds in criminology as well as having numerous elements of other theories. Nathanson's views are positivist because of the desire to base emotion in a scientific grounding, while Braithwaite's approach is a combination of restorative justice, realists criminology, and Native American approaches.

Stigmatizing vs. Reintegrative Shaming

In this section, the current method, of stigmatizing shame, for dealing with youth offenders will be contrasted to Braithwaite's and others new approach of reintegrative shaming. Stigmatizing shame, according to Makkai & Braithwaite (1994) involves four characteristics. The first characteristic is disrespectful disapproval, humiliation, and degradation of the individual. Next, are the various degradation ceremonies (courts, jail processing, etc.) that corroborate deviance rather than conclude deviance. Garfinkel (1956) claimed degradation ceremonies name the "actor as an 'outsider,' that transforms an individual's total identity into an identity "lower in the group's scheme of social types" (p. 420). Third, is the attachment of a formal labeling, after the degradation ceremony, on the individual (juvenile delinquent), rather than to the action (shoplifting, vandalism, etc.). Finally, the individual not the non-normative behavior becomes the master status (Makkai & Braithwaite 1994: 362). Furthermore, stigmatizing shame, according to Shermann and Strang (1997a) "disintegrates the moral bonds between the offender and the community" (p.1). In other words, stigmatizing shame breaks the community apart and creates the youth as an outcast, which is destructive and counterproductive.

According to Makkai & Braithwaite (1994) individuals who live "with a great deal of stigma; their reaction to further shame was rage and vindictive escalation of violence rather than remorse" (p. 364). An example of negative shaming was pointed out by Shermann and Strang (1997a) who stressed that:

Stigmatic shaming is what American judges employ when they make an offender post a sign on his property saying 'a violent felon lives here,' or a bumper sticker on his car saying 'I am a drunk driver.' Stigmatic shaming is designed to separate the youth offender from the larger society as an outcast or deviant for the rest of their life. By labeling him/her as someone who cannot be trusted to obey social norms, stigmatic shaming results in the offender committing more deviant acts. (p. 1).

The attachment of a label (stigma) results in the amplification of the non-normative behaviors rather than the reduction. Furthermore, the so-called "outsiders" are placed in a situation of amplified shame and humiliation and nothing could be more obsequious, so they defy society and/or strike out. In Shermann's (1992) interpretation, "defiance is a means of avoiding shame in the face of any effort to cut one down to size, including an arrest" (p. 203). Stigmatic shaming is counterproductive because it increases non-normative behavior rather than reducing it.\par In contrast, reintegrative shaming, according to Scheff (1989), is defined as a responses to crime in which "expressions of community disapproval [are]. . . followed by gestures of reacceptance into the community of law-abiding citizens" (p. 741). Makkai & Braithwaite (1994) claimed reintegrative shaming involves four characteristics: 1. disapproval of behavior while sustaining a relationship of respect; 2. ceremonies, such as healing circles and/or diversionary conferences, attempt to certify that deviance is terminated by a formal procedure to decertify deviance; 3. disapproval of the negative behavior without labeling the person negatively; and 4. not allowing deviance to become a master status (p. 362).

The goals of reintegrative shaming, according to Richard Lawrence (1991) is to "encourage offenders to accept responsibility, to internalize laws and community expectations, and then work toward acceptance and support of them" (p. 461). In essence, the youth becomes interdependent on the community and, this realization of being interdependent on the community is essential for reintegration. The higher the degree of interdependency the more likely the youth will be reintegrated back into the community more successfully. Creating a situation of high interdependency is necessary for a productive community and the citizens who reside in that community. This interdependency can be achieved by a reintegrative shaming conference (Makkai & Braithwaite 1994: 377).


In this section five issues surrounding the conference are discussed: 1. a broad overview of the conference process; 2. the facilitators role; 3. the victims role; 4. a practical guide for a participatory conference, and; 5. the prevention of future non-normative behaviors. Braithwaite & Mugford (1994) claimed that in a reintegrative ceremony:

. . . disapproval of a bad act is communicated while sustaining the identity of the actor as good. Shame is transmitted within a continuum of respect for the wrongdoer. Repair work is directed at ensuring status trait that overwhelms other identities. Communicative work is directed at sustaining identities like daughter, student, promising footballer, in preference to creating 'master' identities like delinquent (p. 142).

Reintegrative shaming conferences are not to be confused victim-offender mediation, which are different approaches. Reintegrative shaming involves more people in the community, rather than a select few participants, which occurs in mediation. This is due to reintegrative shaming acknowledging that a wider range of people have been victimized by the non-normative behavior. In reintegrative shaming there is also deliberate distinctions between condemning the behavior and condemning the youth. The most important distinction between reintegrative shaming and mediation is that everyone who had been affected by the incident participates, in the conferencing, not just the victims or the youth. In essence, reintegrative shaming is a more democratic process because all participants are valued members of the community and are allowed to participate in the process (Alternative Justice Canada 1999: 2).

There are primarily three types of conferences being used in various regions. The first is the New Zealand model, the second is the Wagga Wagga model. The third model, which is almost identical to the New Zealand model and is being used in Canada called "Family Group Conferences (FGC)." The FGC is the most conservative in its approach and is a close cousin to victim-offender mediation. It should be noted that there are numerous restorative justice /reintegrative shaming type conferences occurring throughout various parts of the westernized world and are primarily based on these models. Nonetheless, the main difference between the New Zealand model and the Wagga Wagga model is that the Wagga Wagga model use police as facilitators, which will be discussed later in this paper.

Regardless of the model, conferences as an experience, are more intense, personal, and take longer then the court system. They include members of the youth's family as well as religious members, or other institutional type groups in which the individual belongs or identifies with. This increases the shaming process because the individual had to go before a large group of family, friends and associates. Having that group of people reinforce the wrong doing in a positive fashion is essential to developing a feeling of shame in the individual. Conferences should focus on the non-normative behavior rather than the youth and seek to draw out the negative consequences of the incident and collectively create plan for an acceptable resolution. This in turn reduces the likelihood the person will commit another non-normative behavior in the future. The individual will have a constant reminder of the shame that is brought about by conducting an anomic activity. However, if the youth fails to keep the mutual agreement their case can be referred to the prosecutor, but no information learned at the conference can be used for or against the youth in a court trial (Shermann and Barnes 1997: 1).

In essence, conferences are designed to help repair the harm done to the youth. It humanizes the non-normative behavior by allowing the victim and his/her supporters the opportunity to discuss the behavior and the non-monetary losses, which is not allowed in court. Furthermore, the youth feels ashamed, takes responsibility for his/her action(s), in the form of an apology, and compensates the victim in monetary and non-monetary terms. Closure of the conference, which normally takes 1 to 2 hours, begins when the victim and their supporters are asked to forgive the youth (Daly and Kitcher 1999: 3). In the next sections, the various roles of the facilitator, victim, and youth (non-normative infractor) are explored.

Facilitators Role

As mentioned before, the Wagga Wagga model conferences in Canberra, Australia, are facilitated by specially trained police officers. Their duty is to keep the discussion focused on what the youth has admitted to doing and how this incident can be resolved for mutual satisfaction. However, "this is sometimes difficult to achieve because of the anger that victims and their supporters may feel and their temptation to humiliate the offender" (Shermann and Strang 1997a: 3). This is one area the facilitator should not allow the conference go, because it will become a degradation ceremony.

Police as facilitators can have a positive and/or negative effect. Findley (1993) suggests that "police might more safely adopt the rule as a catalyst for community organization so that dialogue can occur within a relevant community about a particular crime and its offender" (p. 39). However, the most obvious drawback of police officers are that they are perceived by the community as authority figures or social control agent and thus have the potential to dominate or alter the proceedings inadvertently. The authoritarian approach may have an adverse effect on some juveniles who are having issues of anti-authoritarianism. In addition, "police perspective is more associated with ideas of deterrence and protecting community" (Daly and Kitcher 1999: 3). It is the authors contention that sociologists or social science majors should be used as facilitators, but the choice of the facilitator is at the discretion of the community. Regardless of the credentials of the facilitator, s/he has to be independent and impartial.

The role of the facilitator includes three tactics, which were advanced by O’Connell. According to O’Connell (1995) the facilitator, regardless if they are a police officer or not, should convene their own conference and be independent and impartial facilitator. For example, s/he should personally telephone each of the participants before the conference and invite them, regardless if they are representatives for the victim or youth. Secondly, the facilitator should maximize the number of participants at the conference. Increasing the number of participants, increases the probability one will be able to open up and express painful emotions, which increases the emotionality. Another crucial factor for facilitators is to learn how to start conversations between the victims and youth supporters. The topic area should center around how they first felt about the crime. O’Connell (1995) felt the initial demonstration of feelings is likely to be painful emotions such as grief, fear, and shame (in the form of helplessness and powerlessness). Thirdly, the conferences must be timely. In fact, conferences should be conducted as soon after the non-normative behavior as possible. Not having a conference in a timely manner will result in a decreased amount of emotionality and thus the notion of shaming will be diminished (Scheff, 1995: 13-14).

Informal guidelines helps foster positive dialogue between the all parties at the conference, which the objective is to reach emotionality (see Halbermas, 1986). For example, ground rules the facilitator should enforce are no name calling or badgering the youth, which can turn the conference into a degradation ceremony rather than a reintegrative ceremony. However. “If the offender can come to the point of ‘sharing and communicating’ her shame instead of hiding or denting it the damage to the bond between the offender and the other participants may be required” (Scheff, 1995: 4).

Victims Role

"Victims play a crucial role in this, for they are in a unique position to communicate the irresponsibility of the act" (O'Connor and Sweetapple 1988: 117-18). As mentioned before, victims are allowed to express unedited personal issues (monetary and non-monetary) associated with the non-normative behavior. Granted, most delinquent acts are thoughtless and done spontaneously. For example, a young person who spray paints a business or automobile with rock'n roll bands names or some other miscellaneous symbols will mistakenly see the act as entertaining fun which does not hurting anyone. the individual believes they have damaged the property of a faceless person in the name of fun or defiance against authority. In the conference; however, the youth comes to realize, the 'faceless' property-owner (victim) is an elderly couple who are now fearful of youths. The youth also learns the incident has resulted in the elderly couple feeling insecure in their own home, as do their next door neighbors. Both have come to view the neighborhood as a dangerous place. Getting this message of victimization across is the basis for creating the right kind of shame (Braithwaite and Mugford 1994: 144).

Braithwaite and Mugford (1994) went on to claim "victims commonly say that they do not want the offender punished, they do not want vengeance; they want the young offender to learn from his mistake and get his life back in order" (p. 149). Most victims want compensation for the damaged caused. Others waive any claims to reimbursement because they have a desire to see the youth make a fresh start or get a second chance (Braithwaite and Mugford 1994: 149). There are many debates about whether the victim should have the power to veto the decision or agreement of the group. However, this issue should be left up to the community to decide before a conference is performed.

A Practical Guide for a Participatory Conference

(A Summary Version is Located in Appendix A)

The incident prior to the conference is being assumed here such as the police investigation that lead the apprehension of the youth and the authorities referral or diversion of the youth to the reintegrative shaming conference. A conference can only occur if the youth chooses to acknowledge committing the incident being made by the social control agents. The victim, in most conference settings, must also choose to be a part of the reintegrative shaming conference. If both decide to participate, the conference can proceed. The victim and youth, then select members to participate in the conference. The conference must be in a timely manner and be conducted by an independent and impartial facilitator. The facilitator directs the proceedings and the participants are seated in a circle, which allows for eye contact and establishes an appropriate distance between victim and youth. There should be nothing in the center of the group like a table. The goal is to create a forum for open discussion.

Strang and Sherman (1997) "the conference begins with statements by the offenders about what they did, followed by statements by the victims about the harm the crime caused, both material and psychological"(p. 1). The youth should discuss the incident in regards to their perspective via open-ended questions from the facilitator. Supporters of the victim and youth are asked open-ended questions about the incident from their point of view, its impact, and to suggest a potential resolution. Braithwaite and Mugford (1994) "reintegrative ceremonies succeed when one side makes an early gesture of self-blame or self-deprecation . . . Self-deprecating gestures from either side can facilitate reintegration, which is powerfully facilitated by exchanges" (p. 152). A self-deprecating is a humbling experience for the youth that fosters the sociological and psychological aspects of shame.

After both sides have discussed the non-normative behavior, the victim is consulted first for his/her input on a satisfactory resolution. Then, the victim supporters are requested for their input. Finally, the youth is asked for a proposed resolution and then the youth supporters are asked for a potential resolution. When group consensus is achieved, in a democratic process, the resolution is finalized. The mutual agreement must be honored by youth. Otherwise, it will be referred back to the prosecutor for the appropriate action.

Closure occurs after a democratic decision has been achieved. The facilitator then invites all participants to one location for refreshments and in some cases a tradition meal or potluck. This brings closure to the incident and reconnects victim, youth, and the community. It should be noted that some conferences only focus on repairing the harm of the non-normative action. However, this approach goes beyond that and offers the youth assistance. For example, the youth could be allowed to participate in academic programs to help them finish school if needed. They could also be encouraged to participate in self-help programs such as anger management, conflict resolution, and/or how to get a job. Or more practical type enhancements such as how to use a computer, paint, draw, write poetry and/or study sociology. If all goes smoothly, the participatory reintegrative shaming conference will result in the prevention of future non-normative behavior.

Prevention of Future Non-Normative Behavior(s)

There are several elements of reintegrative shaming that result in the prevention of additional crime. As mentioned throughout this paper, the essential element of reintegrative shaming is that the youth acquire feelings of shame about their non-normative behavior. Scheff (1995) claimed, "the idea that one can be ashamed of being ashamed leads to the concept of continuous loops of shame, which is our explanation of mechanism of repression" (p. 4). This positive repression is necessary for crime prevention. According to Braithwaite (1989) shame foremost "deters criminal behavior because social approval of significant others is something we do not like to lose. Second . . . both shaming and repentance build consciences which internally deter criminal behavior" (p.75).

Another factor that reduces future crime is a fair process. Specifically, being permitted to correct the non-normative behavior(s) in a fair and honest environment is a major deterrent to the youth committing future crimes. According to Shermann and Barnes (1997) there is "growing evidence in the US and Australia [which] shows that offenders are less likely to re-offend" if five things are accomplished when dealing with the legal system (p. 2). For example, the youth is less likely to re-offend if the system: 1. took time to listen to them; 2. allowed them the opportunity to correct any factual errors in their case; 3. had their rights explained and protected; 4. were treated with equal rights as anyone else, and; 5. were addressed with respect and courtesy (Shermann and Barnes 1997: 2). All these are accomplished with the purposed reintegrative shaming conference offered in this paper. However, "conferences will never usher in revolutionary changes; they do, however, give little people chances to strike little blows against oppression" (Braithwaite and Mugford 1994: 158).


The purpose of this paper has been to practice or apply sociology. Specifically, this paper has established a practical guide for conducting participatory reintegrative shaming conferences as a social control method for youth. Furthermore, the youth has been shown three things: 1. how their non-normative behavior injured others (i.e., materially and non-materially); 2. an identification with the victim(s); 3. the recognition of the actual aftereffect of their misdeeds. However, the scope of the program is not limited to just youth criminal behavior. There is potential for this reintegrative shaming conferences to work with various types of non-normative behavior(s).

For example, reintegrative shaming can be used for the following age groups and non-normative behavior(s): persons under 12 years old for criminal behavior and/or conduct/discipline issues such as bullying, acting out, etc.; for persons between 12 - 17 years of age for criminal behavior and/or conduct/discipline issues; for persons over 18 years of age for criminal behavior, workplace/sexual harassment, spousal abuse; and all age groups for chemical dependence issues (Alternative Justice Canada 1999: 11). All of these non-normative behaviors and/or conduct/discipline issues can be addressed with the participatory process established in this paper. Participatory reintegrative shaming conferences are an essential element to creating a better community. It is the hope of the author that the implementation of these conferences will foster a more democratic and egalitarian system in the communities they are put into practice.


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Appendix A – A Practical Guide Listing for Reintegrative Shaming Conference*


1.  Non-Normative Behavior:


    -Distinguish and inspection by social control agents.

    -Youth admits/takes responsibility for non-normative behavior.

    -Assessment whether incident is suitable for participatory reintegrative shaming conference.

    -determination of authorized official to divert from court system.


2. Offer of Reintegrative Shaming Conference


    -Offer to the youth to participate.

    -Offer to victim and others affected by incident to participate.

    -Particulars of conference established which must be timely.

    - Independent and impartial facilitator (Social Scientist) selects participants. 

    (Should include youth, their family, friends, victim and victim supporters).


3. Reintegrative Shaming Conference


    -facilitator conducts proceeding.

    - participants are seated in a circle, which allows for eye contact among all establishes

    an appropriate distance between victim and offender. There should be nothing in the 

    center of the group    such as a table.

    -Facilitators guides conferences with a set of open-ended questions.

    -Speaking lists: 1. Youth speaks on behavior; 2. Victim(s) speaks of incident; 

    3. Victim supporters speak   of incident; 4. Youth supporter(s) ask speak about incident.


4. Mutual Agreement by Group Consensus


    -victim asked for satisfactory solution.

    -victim supporters asked for contribution.

    -youth supporters asked for contribution.

    -above three come to a consensus for solution.

    -youth asked for contribution on solution and if it is fair.

    -If yes solution is finalized - then all terms must be honored.

    -If no the solution is re-discussed until consensus is achieved.


5. Closure


    -facilitator invites all participants to another place for refreshments and less formal interactions.

    -youths offered assistance (i.e., self-help or education-enhancement programs


*Adapted from the Canada Family Group Conference