What is Restorative Justice
Restorative Justice is a philosophy which holds community healing as its cornerstone. Like community policing, it's a way of doing business differently. Unlike the current adversarial system which is based on punishment, restorative justice encourages dialogue and responsibility for past behaviour, while focusing on future problem-solving and offender accountability. Ideally, the victim, the offender and the community should be involved in 'making things right' to enable all parties to be returned to their pre-crime states. Restorative justice views crime as a violation of one person by another not simply as a breaking of the 'law'.
What is restorative justice?
Restorative justice seeks to repair the harm caused by crime and violence by facilitating a procress that addresses victims' needs and holds offenders meaningfully accountable for their actions. To achieve this, offenders must first accept responsibility for their role in an offence and the harm they have caused. Victims must also voluntarily choose to participate. In this approach, crime is understood not only as breaking the law, but as a violation of people and relationships and a disruption of the peace in a community.
What does a restorative justice process look like and who is involved?
In a restorative justice process, everyone affected by a particular offence is invited to participate in a discussion of the circumstances surrounding the offence. Often, this means that victims and their supporters, and offenders and theirs supporters, are guided by a restorative justice facilitator (or in some cases and elder) through a structured dialogue. This dialogue allows participants to share how the offence happened, how they were affected, and what needs to happen to make things right. The number of people involved will vary depending on the type of offence and the comfort-level of participants.
Why would I participate in a restorative justice process? What about court?
There are a number of reasons that a person who has experienced a crime will participate in a restorative justice process. You may have questions for the offender or want the offender to understand the impact their actions have had on you, your family members, and others. You may want restitution or compensation directly from the offender. Or you may feel that a direct discussion with the offender will allow you to have closure and to move on from the effects of the offence. These kinds of interactions may not be available in the court process.
Some victims feel that a restorative justice approach is more effective than the court system in ensuring that the offender does not repeat harmful behaviour. Others would prefer that the court handle the matter, and do not want any involvement in a restorative justice process. The decision to participate or not to participate in a restorative justice process are both valid choices.
Restorative justice emphasizes repairing the harm caused by conflict and crime. It views crime as a violation of people and relationships, a discruption of peace in the community and not simply as an offence against the state. Restorative justice is collaborative and inclusive. It involves the participation of those responsible for the harm and those harmed directly and indirectly in finding a solution that repairs and promotes trust and harmony.
The underlying values of restorative justice include respect for the dignity of everyone affected by a crime.