Date Approved


Graduate Degree Type


Degree Name

Social Work (M.S.W.)

Degree Program

School of Social Work

First Advisor

Shelley Schuurman, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jerry L. Johnson, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Kathleen Bailey, Ed.D.


A systemic paradigm shift of any sort is complex and multifaceted. A systemic paradigm shift of justice is no different. The purpose of this study is to identify the barriers that exist in a systemic paradigm shift from retributive justice to restorative justice. The methodology for this study is an interpretive synthesis of literature on restorative justice and consists of primarily theoretical literature. The literature for this study came from a variety of disciplines (e.g. psychology, criminal justice, sociology, and social work) in order to obtain a holistic perspective. A tripartite analysis was conducted using three perspectives: criminal justice, social systems model, and social work. In using these three lenses, different barriers to a systemic paradigm shift were able to be identified. This study identified several barriers from all three perspectives that may likely impede a systemic paradigm shift to restorative justice. With these barriers is it possible that a restorative justice paradigm might not be able to wholly replace the criminal justice system, but rather, that it can grow to work in concert with the current criminal justice system, and infusing the criminal justice system with restorative values.

This study holds the potential for social workers to focus efforts on social change, and addressing the barriers that have been identified. This research advocates for social workers to be active in political action as well as in community organizing and development. Social work, because of its mission, values, and perspectives, is in a unique position to address these barriers.

Included in

Social Work Commons