Same, same or different? Is trauma-informed sentencing a form of therapeutic jurisprudence?

Katherine McLachlan


The fundamental purposes of therapeutic jurisprudence and “trauma-informed” criminal justice practices are similar: to recognise the importance of therapeutic (trauma-informed) interactions in promoting recovery and desistance from crime, while also avoiding anti-therapeutic outcomes caused by interactions with the criminal justice system. This paper will examine the similarities and differences between therapeutic jurisprudence in sentencing and trauma-informed sentencing to explore whether trauma-informed sentencing should be regarded as a form of therapeutic jurisprudence. While therapeutic jurisprudence, as a legal construct, gives a high priority to working within the existing law to achieve therapeutic outcomes, a trauma-informed approach, emerging as it has from social science and allied health origins, may challenge the veracity and efficacy of current laws and focus instead on how law reform could achieve more therapeutic outcomes.

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