What is Restorative Justice?

Restorative justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused or revealed by criminal behaviour. It is best accomplished through cooperative processes that include all stakeholders.

Practices and programs reflecting restorative purposes will respond to crime by:

  • identifying and taking steps to repair harm,
  • involving all stakeholders, and
  • transforming the traditional relationship between communities and their governments in responding to crime.

Some of the programmes and outcomes typically identified with restorative justice include:

  • Victim offender mediation
  • Conferencing
  • Circles
  • Victim assistance
  • Ex-offender assistance
  • Restitution
  • Community service

Three principles form the foundation for restorative justice:

  • Justice requires that we work to restore those who have been injured.
  • Those most directly involved and affected by crime should have the opportunity to participate fully in the response if they wish.
  • Government’s role is to preserve a just public order, and the community’s is to build and maintain a just peace.

Restorative programmes are characterized by four key values:

  • Encounter: Create opportunities for victims, offenders and community members who want to do so to meet to discuss the crime and its aftermath.
  • Amends: Expect offenders to take steps to repair the harm they have caused
  • Reintegration: Seek to restore victims and offenders to whole, contributing members of society
  • Inclusion: Provide opportunities for parties with a stake in a specific crime to participate in its resolution

Restorative justice asks:

  1. Who has been hurt?
  2. What are their needs?
  3. Whose obligations are these?
  4. What are the causes?
  5. Who has a stake in the situation?
  6. What is the appropriate process to involve stakeholders in an effort to address causes and put things right?
Howard Zehr

Distinguished Professor of Restorative Justice, Eastern Mennonite University

Restorative justice is an approach to justice that focuses on repairing the harm caused by crime while holding the offender responsible for his or her actions, by providing an opportunity for the parties directly affected by the crime – victim(s), offender and community – to identify and address their needs in the aftermath of a crime, and seek a resolution that affords healing, reparation and reintegration, and prevents future harm.

Dr. Robert Cormier

Public Safety Canada

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