How should we as a society respond to wrongdoing? When a crime occurs or an injustice is done, what needs to happen? What does justice require?

Although the term “restorative justice” encompasses a variety of programs and practices, at its core it is a set of principles, a philosophy and an alternate set of guiding questions. Ultimately, restorative justice provides an alternative framework for thinking about wrongdoing.

The restorative justice movement originally began as an effort to rethink the needs which crimes create. It boils down to a set of questions which we need to ask when a wrong has occurred.

  • Who has been hurt?
  • What are their needs?
  • Whose obligations are these?
  • Who has a stake in this situation?

What is the appropriate process to involve stakeholders in an effort to put things right?

Restorative justice expands the circle of stakeholders—those with a stake or standing in the event or the case—beyond just the government and the offender to include victims and community members.

Restorative Justice Principles:

  • Crime is a violation of people and/or interpersonal relationships
  • Violations create obligations
  • The central obligation is to put right the wrongs

The difference between Criminal Justice and Restorative Justice:

Criminal Justice
  • 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"
Restorative Justice
  • 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