Restorative Justice is an approach to address crime or conflict.

Restorative justice is an approach to address crime or conflict. It focuses on the needs of victims to heal from harm they incurred; it increases offender accountability to repair the actual harm caused; and includes impacted community members to assist all in developing terms of how to best move forward. When victims, offenders and community members meet to decide how to do that, the results can be transformational.

Using Restorative Justice principles seeks to achieve justice by involving, to the extent possible, those who have a stake in a specific offense or harm to collectively identify and address harms, needs, and obligations in order to heal and put things as right as possible.

child adult holding hands

Goals of Restorative Justice

  • Put key decisions into the hands of those most affected by the crime or harm done;
  • Make justice more healing and ideally, more transformative;
  • Reduce the likelihood of future offenses.

What Restorative Justice is Not

  • Restorative Justice in not primarily about forgiveness or reconciliation. While this may be a by-product of this process it is completely up to the individuals involved. This process puts no pressure to forgive or seek reconciliation of the individual(s).
  • Restorative Justice does not necessarily imply a return to past circumstances meaning it is not a returning to something before the event took place. The situation needs to be transformed, not restored. It is not returning to the status quo as much as it is going forward into restored wholeness with self and community.
  • Restorative Justice is not mediation. Mediation implies two parties on equal footing whereas an RJ panel/neighborhood court acknowledges that there are definitive offenders and victims of harm. RJ is set in a conference setting or panel dialogue and not a form of true mediation.

Three pillars of Restorative Justice

1. Restorative Justice focuses on HARM.

We understand that an offense committed is not done in a vacuum; it is done to people and community. Restorative Justice begins with a focus on the needs of the victim and the community with this approach it leads to the repairing of the harm caused as much as it is possible in both concrete and symbolical ways.

2. Restorative Justice focuses on that wrongs/harms result in OBLIGATIONS.

Because there is a focus on the obligations of the offender in Restorative Justice it brings an emphasis on accountability and responsibility to them. Accountability assumes the role in helping the offender to comprehend the consequences and responsibility of their behavior. This approach helps them to take personal account of what they have done and the obligation to repair the harm.

3. Restorative Justice promotes ENGAGEMENT & PARTICIPATION.

The principle of engagement suggests that the primary parties affected by crime-those who have been victimized, members of the community and the offender – are provided significant roles in the restorative justice process.

In essence Restorative Justice requires, at a minimum, that we address the harms and needs of those harmed, hold those causing harm accountable to “put right” those harms, and involve both of these parties as well as relevant communities in this process.


Guiding questions of Restorative Justice

These questions help boil down what the essence of Restorative Justice process is and the outcomes that it can bring.

  1. Who has been harmed?
  2. What are their needs?
  3. Whose Obligations are these?
  4. Who has a stake in this situation?
  5. What are the causes?
  6. What is the appropriate process t involve the stake holders in an effort to put things right and address underlying causes?

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