Restorative Justice focuses on the relationships affected by wrongdoing.
By concentrating on the people involved in wrongdoing, including the offender, Restorative Justice identifies and meets the needs of all those harmed by crime and conflict so all may move forward in a positive way.
Restorative Justice is distinct from our traditional criminal justice system, which almost exclusively focuses on the crime that was committed and, if the defendant is convicted, what punishment is dictated by statute. In our current system, the facts leading to the commission of the crime are only relevant to determine guilt or innocence. By ignoring the reasons for the crime and the needs of the defendant (let alone the victim of the crime and associated community), we have created an expensive and ineffective juggernaut of punishment.
Restorative Justice focuses on equitable approaches to repairing harm.
By creating a safe space for all those harmed by crime to tell their stories and express their needs, we can effectively craft responses to crime that promotes public safety, holds the offender accountable, and meets the needs of all those affected, thereby encouraging healthy behavior related to incidents that are often extremely painful and traumatic.
Our traditional criminal justice system is famously concerned with equality; by treating everyone the same, we assume that every defendant has the same needs and that only the crime should dictate what punishment is appropriate. This is simply not an effective approach to dealing with crime, as justice-involved people are more likely to reoffend with every subsequent contact with criminal justice, while those coming home from prison are more than likely (60%) to commit another crime. This is because our approach to crime is not equitable; we are not meeting the needs of those who commit and are affected by crimes. Therefore, we are not creating conditions for which the underlying causes of crime are erased and relationships are restored.
Explore the diversity of restorative programming below:
- Community Conferencing (Baltimore) - youth, crimes of violence
- Restorative Discipline (Oakland) - youth, alternatives to school suspension
- Victim Offender Education Group (CA Prisons) - adults in prison, violent crime
- Behavioral Health Court (San Francisco) - adults, mental health
- Family Group Conferencing (New Zealand) - youth and their families
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission (South Africa) - national trauma