Restorative Justice

Restorative Justice Principles–

Traditional (Retributive) Justice hands the problem over to the state and “professionals” (lawyers, judges, police, principals, experts).  It asks:

  • What law/rule has been broken (what are the charges as defined by the state or institution)?
  • Who broke it (focus on the one doing the harm)?
  • What is the punishment (focus on the one doing the harm)?

Restorative Justice turns the problem over to all those who are affected. It asks:

  • What harm has been done (as defined by the person harmed)?
  • Who has been harmed (equal concern for the ones harmed, their family, the community and the one doing the harm in process)?
  • What needs to happen to repair the harm (not just returning someone’s “stuff” but issues of trust, security decided by the one  harmed etc.)?
  • Who is responsible for the repair (supporting the person who has harmed while encouraging them to understand, accept and carry out obligations)?

Restorative Justice is a value-based approach to conflict and harm.  These values are often identified as inclusion, democracy, responsibility, reparation, safety, healing, renegotiation and respect.

Restorative Justice is a set of principles used in dealing with conflict and harm:

  • Crime is fundamentally a violation of people and relationships
  • Those harmed and the community are at the center of the process. The first priority of the justice process is to assist and heal the harmed. The second priority is to restore relationships in the community.
  • Everyone has a voice and power. Peoples’ stories are encouraged.
  • Emotions are welcomed as a critical part of healing injustice.
  • The harm doer has a personal obligation to those harmed and the community.
  • The community shares responsibilities for restorative justice through partnerships for action

The practices of Restorative Justice are

Face-to-face     Non-adversarial            Expressive of emotion             Equal voice

Consensus based                       Seeking repair

For Those harmed Restorative justice empowers those who are harmed to have a voice in the justice process, offers them an opportunity to ask questions and seek answers, affords them a role in the sentencing decision, and provides them with avenues for healing and closure. (Opportunity to get acknowledgement, apology and repair from one harming , to receive from the community recognition, support and solidarity)

For Those who harm Restorative justice enables those who harm to be accountable for their conduct; affords them opportunities to make amends and express remorse; offers them constructive ways to repair harm as well as support for making responsible choices; and creates a forum for forgiveness, reconciliation, and reintegration. (Opportunity to acknowledge, apologize and repair to the people affected and community; receive chance to make amends, support and acceptance of the gesture of remorse)

For Communities Restorative justice re-invests citizens with the power to contribute meaningfully for the resolution of community problems; allows citizens to articulate and affirm the moral and behavioral standards of the community; provides a forum for addressing the underlying conditions which generate crime; and contributes toward the creation of safe, thriving, and peaceful communities.

Peacemaking Circles

Peacemaking Circles Peacemaking circles promote genuine democratic participation by creating space where all voices are respectively heard, shared leadership could emerge, and communities would grow stronger.  In addition, Peacemaking Circles create spaces for healing, accountability and rebalancing harmful relationships within the community.

  • Circles can help people build effective listening, speaking and decision-making skills that can address conflict and differences.
  • Circles include the historically excluded – young people, parents, those with little or no education, those from poor communities, and others who are disenfranchised through life or circumstances – and acknowledge that all people are equal in the Circle.
  • Circles provide safe places for people to address and express anger, pain, harm, and/or hopelessness.
  • Circles promote accountability among individuals who cause harm to other people and among families and communities.
  • Circles empower the members of a community with a sense that they are able to affect positive change, thus creating a significant opportunity for hope and optimism.
  • Circles are not things or programs but a way to be.
  • Circles are sacred spaces.
  • No one controls Circles; they are spaces of collective empowerment.
  • Circles are about the invitation; no one can be forced to sit in a Circle.
  • Circles are not about what you do while in a circle as it is about how you are in life.

With thanks and acknowledgment to the Center for Restorative Justice.

Executive Summary: An Economic Analysis of Restorative Justice from UMass-Boston:
UMass RJ Exec-Summary