Restorative Justice is an approach to justice that seeks to move beyond punitive and retributive frameworks, based on indigenous practice and teachings. Traditionally, the victim and offender meet, sometimes with a community representative, and seek to resolve the issue through communication, vulnerability, and accountability. Parties share their respective experiences with an interest in establishing consensus over the appropriate resolution.
Jonathan Braithwaite, a RJ activist, explains it as “a process where all stakeholders affected by an injustice have an opportunity to discuss how they have been affected by the injustice and to decide what should be done to repair the harm. With crime, restorative justice is about the idea that because crime hurts, justice should heal. It follows that conversations with those who have been hurt and with those who have inflicted the harm must be central to the process. –Overview:
Two peoples are mainly responsible for the foundational practices of RJ: The indigenous civilizations of North America, and the Māori of New Zealand. Traditional Aboriginal teachings, and later proponents of the Christian faith, also contributed to the modern expression of RJ.
Modern Practice Examples:
• Criminal Justice:
o The U.S. criminal justice system is the product of decades of “get tough” policies.
RJ provides another option and is becoming increasingly popular. RJ’s goals in the criminal justice context involve redirecting punitive and retributive resources into a process of growth and transformation. The ultimate aim of RJ is healing.
• Victim-Offender Mediation
o RJ is increasingly popular in resolving disputes before involving the court system.
Mediation practice is one of the areas to which RJ applies most readily in terms of existing dispute resolution structures.
• Family group conferences and circle work
• Victim-Offender Dialogue Results:
• Various studies show a reduction in recidivism in criminal contexts, decreased physical aggression in school settings, and a reduction in PTSD prevalence among victims following RJ practice.
• RJ continues to be a quickly growing practice in many professional, personal, and criminal environments as people recognize the shortcomings of established “justice” practices.