What is Restorative Justice?

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 wrongdoers, victims 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 Justice programs across fields as diverse as justice (policing, corrections, juvenile justice), schools, workplaces, organizations, faith groups, family and community. RJ programs are characterized by four key values:

  • Encounter: creating opportunities for victims, offenders (wrongdoers), their families and community members who want to do so to meet to discuss the crime (incident) and its impact on them
  • Amends: expecting wrongdoers to take steps to repair the harm they have caused
  • Reintegration: seeking to restore victims and offenders to wholeness, to become contributing members of society
  • 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 the range of programs. The following list is by no means complete:

  • Victim - offender mediation
  • Conferencing (pre and post sentencing, pre-release)
  • Family Group Conferencing (FGC)
  • Family Group Decision Making (FGDM)
  • Circles
  • Restorative Cautioning (Police)
  • Restorative dialogue, classroom conferencing, formal conferences (schools)

We urge newcomers to these concepts to explore the wide range of models and practice – we believe strongly 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 is what practitioners do when they use the principles, values and practices of the philosophy of restorative justice. Schools in the southern hemisphere, for example, tend to prefer the word “practice” in the educational setting to distinguish it from criminal justice (in some places, the term restorative “approaches” is preferred, and there are others). 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 and workplaces. And RPI continues to believe that we have an enormous amount to learn from each other as we practise in these varying fields, and as we hone that practice to be the best it can be.