Volume 7, 2000
How to Reform a Serial Killer: The Buddhist Approach to Restorative Justice
David R. Loy
This article considers how Buddhist perspectives on crime and punishment support the contemporary movement toward restorative (in place of retributive) justice. It begins by examining the two Pāli suttas that most directly address these issues: the Angulimala Sutta, about the reform of a serial killer, and the Lion’s Roar Sutta, about the responsibility of a ruler. Then it looks at the Vinaya, which has many implications for our understanding of motivation and reform, and finally at traditional Tibet to see how its criminal justice system embodied these Buddhist perspectives. It concludes with some reflections on why our present criminal justice systems serve the purposes of the state better than the needs of offenders and their victims.