What is Restorative Justice?

What is Restorative Justice?

Restorative Justice focuses on the harm done to people when a crime has been committed rather than looking at what laws or rules have been broken as in traditional Criminal Justice Systems.. Those who have been harmed and those who have done the harm are at the centre of this process.

Braithwaite (2004) said “Restorative Justice is about the idea that because crime hurts, Justice should heal”.  The aims of Restorative Justice are to better meet the needs of the people directly involved when a crime happens than is normally possible in traditional criminal justice systems. In the traditional system, legal professionals are the active decision makers and the people who have been harmed and those that have harmed are passive in their roles. Howard Zehr (2002) lists the three pillars of Restorative Justice as:

  • Harms and Needs: Who was harmed, what was the harm? How can it be repaired?
  • Obligations: Who is responsible and accountable and how can he/she repair the harm?
  • Engagement: Victims and Offenders have active roles in the Justice process

Restorative Justice Processes work towards the restoration (in some way), and empowerment of victims/survivors, and asking those who have offended to accept responsibility for their actions and work towards healing the harm.

Restorative Justice is an umbrella term that covers quite a range of processes that can be used depending on the context and the need.  What unites all the processes and places them under the RJ umbrella are the values and principles which necessarily underlies them.  Below is an outline of some of these values as identified by Sawatsky (2002).

  • Respect  and support for each person;
  • Recognition of our interconnectedness with each other;
  • Recognition of our particularity;
  • The possibility for transformation over denial of true justice;
  • Orientation to the needs of participants particularly the victim/survivor and
  • Orientation towards nonviolence.

Facing Forward works restoratively with people who have been harmed by serious crime and with people who have done serious harm to others.