Restorative Justice provides an alternative to the belief that crime is a violation of laws and that the state is the victim. It assumes crime to be a harm done to others and to relationships. It focuses on the needs and obligations of the person who has committed the harm (offender), the person harmed (victim), and others impacted by the harm (community). All have voice in the process.
The difference in approach between Criminal Justice and Restorative Justice can be seen below (taken from the Little Book of Restorative Justice by Howard Zehr):
TWO DIFFERENT VIEWS
- Crime is a violation of the law and the state
- Violations create guilt
- Justice requires the state to determine blame (guilt) and impose pain (punishment)
- Central focus – offenders getting what they deserve
- Crime is a violation of people and relationships
- Violations create obligations
- Justice involves victims, offenders, and community members in an effort to put things right
- Central focus – victim needs and offender responsibility for repairing harm
THREE DIFFERENT QUESTIONS
- What laws have been broken?
- Who did it?
- What do they deserve?
- Who has been hurt?
- What are their needs?
- Whose obligations are these?