Restorative Justice (RJ) is an approach to problem solving that is based around three basic concepts:
- That when crime or wrongdoing occurs, the focus is on the harm that has been done to people and relationships.
- When harm has been done, it creates obligations and liabilities.
- The way forward involves those responsible, those harmed, and the community, in efforts to heal the harm and put things right (adapted from Zehr and Mika, 1997)
There is a range of Restorative programs across fields as diverse as courts, policing, corrections, youth justice, schools, workplaces, organizations, environment, faith groups, family and community. These programs are characterized by four key values:
- Encounter: creating opportunities for those responsible, those harmed, supporters, and community members who want to do so, to meet to explore what happened and its impact.
- Amends: expecting those responsible to take steps to repair the harm they have caused.
- Reintegration: seeking healing for both those harmed and those responsible, to find a sense of connectedness and safety.
- Inclusion: providing opportunities for parties with a stake in a specific crime or incident to participate in its resolution (adapted from RJ Online)
There are several models of Restorative Justice that are practiced across a range of programs including:
- Victim – offender mediation
- Conferencing (pre and post-sentencing, pre-release)
- Family Group Conferencing (FGC)
- Family Group Decision Making (FGDM)
- Restorative Cautioning (Police)
- Restorative dialogue, classroom conferencing, formal conferences (schools)
If you are new to these concepts, we encourage you to explore the wide range of models and practices. We believe that each model has value and can contribute to our knowledge and best practice in whichever field we work.
What does the term Restorative Practice mean?
As the Restorative Justice movement is making inroads into a range of fields outside of the criminal justice system, new terms have been developed to reflect these innovations.
Restorative Practices are what practitioners do when they use the principles, values, and philosophy of restorative justice. Some schools tend to prefer the word “practice” in the educational setting to distinguish it from criminal justice. In other education settings, the terms Restorative approaches, Restorative measures, and even Restorative Justice in Education, (RJE) are used.
For the purposes of RPI, we use the term practice as a collective to encompass all fields where these notions of justice are practiced – policing, corrections, courts, juvenile justice, schools, families, organisations, environment, and workplaces. RPI believes that we have an enormous amount to learn from each other as we practice in these varying fields, and hone our practice to be the best it can be.