Restorative Justice Philosophy and Practice
Restorative Justice is a response to injustice that emphasizes repairing harm done. It 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.
The philosophy and practice 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.
Restorative Justice is a systemic response to wrongdoing that emphasizes healing the wounds of all those impacted by a crime: victims, offenders and communities. It provides an alternative to punitive models.
Restorative practices include: family/community group conferences, restorative circles, and victim/offender conferences.
Family/community conferences involves the community of people most affected by the crime – the victim and the offender; and the family, friends, and key supporters of both, and members of the community impacted by the harm – in deciding the resolution of a criminal incident. These affected parties are brought together by a trained restorative justice practitioner to discuss how they and others have been harmed by the offense and how that harm might be repaired. To participate the offender must admit to the offense. Participation by all is voluntary. All resolutions must be decided by consensus by all parties and submitted to the official responsible for the case (such as the judge).
Its goals are to:
- Provide an opportunity for the victim to be directly involved in the discussion of the offense and in decisions regarding appropriate sanctions to be placed on the offended;
- Offer the community a participatory role in the healing and restitution process;
- Increase the offender’s awareness of the human impact of his or her behavior and provide an opportunity to take full responsibility for it; and
- Allow both the offender and victim to reconnect to key community support systems.
The Victim Offender Conference is a process that provides interested victims an opportunity to meet their offender in a safe and structured setting. It allows victims to engage in a mediated discussion of the crime. With the assistance of a trained mediator, the victim is able to tell the offender about the crime’s physical, emotional, and financial impact, to receive answers to lingering questions about the crime and the offender, and to be directly involved in developing a restitution plan for the offender.
Its goals are to:
- Support the healing process of victims;
- Allow the offender to learn about the impact of the crime on the victim and to take direct responsibility for their behavior; and
- Provide an opportunity for the victim and offender to develop a mutually acceptable plan that addresses the harm caused by the crime.
Circles create a forum for reaching agreements or exploring issues that help sustain effective and nurturing relationships both personally and within society They build authentic community, and provide youth and adults a safe place for risk taking, and shared leadership. The circles, in which communication and expressive skills are developed, establish respect and discipline within groups.
Circles can be used for a variety of purposes: community-building, problem-solving, conflict resolution, healing, as well as addressing harm.
Its goals are to:
- Provide a safe environment for expressing ideas and feelings;
- Allow space for each person to share their perspective; and
- Maintain open and honest communication.
Training includes theoretical foundation for these restorative
practices, video of the practices, roles plays, and future implementation