Lesson 1: Definition
Notice three big ideas: (1) repair: crime causes harm and justice requires repairing that harm; (2) encounter: the best way to determine how to do that is to have the parties decide together; and (3) transformation: this can cause fundamental changes in people, relationships and communities.
A formal way to say this is: Restorative justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behaviour. It is best accomplished when the parties themselves meet cooperatively to decide how to do this, although other approaches may be used when that is not possible. Sometimes these meetings lead to transformation of people, relationships and communities.
To review: restorative justice...
is a different way of thinking about crime and our response to crime
focuses on repairing the harm caused by crime and reducing future harm through crime prevention
requires offenders to take responsibility for their actions and for the harm they have caused
seeks redress for victims, recompense by offenders and reintegration of both within the community
requires a co-operative effort by communities and the government
Following are some other definitions of restorative justice.
Restorative justice is a process whereby all the parties with a stake in a particular offense come together to resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of the offense and its implications for the future.
Restorative Justice: An Overview. London: Home Office Research Development and Statistics Directorate, 1999. p 5.
Also, see the modified version adopted by the Working Party on Restorative Justice
Viewed through a restorative justice lens, "crime is a violation of people and relationships. It creates obligations to make things right. Justice involves the victim, the offender, and the community in a search for solutions which promote repair, reconciliation, and reassurance."
Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime and Justice. Scottdale, Pennsylvania; Waterloo, Ontario: Herald Press, 1990. p 181.
In short, restorative justice is a process through which remorseful offenders accept responsibility for their misconduct to those injured and to the community that, in response allows the reintegration of the offender into the community. The emphasis is on restoration: restoration of the offender in terms of his or her self-respect, restoration of the relationship between offender and victims, as well as restoration of both offenders and victims within the community.
"Crime Prevention Through Restorative Justice: Lessons from Japan." In Restorative Justice: International Perspectives, edited by Burt Galaway and Joe Hudson. Monsey, NY; Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Criminal Justice Press and Kugler Publications, 1996. P. 352.
Restorative justice "holds that criminal behavior is primarily a violation of one individual by another. When a crime is committed, it is the victim who is harmed, not the state; instead of the offender owing a 'debt to society' which must be expunged by experiencing some form of state-imposed punishment, the offender owes a specific debt to the victim which can only be repaid by making good the damage caused." (Zehr, 1990) What constitutes appropriate reparation is decided through a process of negotiation involving not only the offender and the victim but the respective families and social networks who have also been harmed by the criminal act. The ultimate aim of restorative justice is one of healing. Through receiving appropriate reparation, the harm done to the victim can be redressed; by making good the damage caused, the offender can be reconciled with the victim and reintegrated back into his/her social and familial networks; and through such reconciliation and reintegration, community harmony can be restored."
Joy Wundersitz and Sue Hetzel
"Family Conferencing for Young Offenders: The South Australian Experience." In Family Group Conferences: Perspectives on Policy & Practice, edited by Joe Hudson, et al. Leicherdt, NSW, Australia; Monsey, NY: The Federation Press, Inc. and Criminal Justice Press, 1996. Pp. 113-114.
A definition of restorative justice includes the following fundamental elements: "first, crime is viewed primarily as a conflict between individuals that results in injuries to victims, communities, and the offenders themselves; second, the aim of the criminal justice process should be to create peace in communities by reconciling the parties and repairing the injuries caused by the dispute; third, the criminal justice process should facilitate active participation by the victims, offenders, and their communities in order to find solutions to the conflict."
Burt Galaway and Joe Hudson
Criminal Justice, Restitution and Reconciliation. Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice Press., 1990. P. 2.
Restorative justice may be defined as a response to criminal behavior that seeks to restore the losses suffered by crime victims and to facilitate peace and tranquility among opposing parties.
Kevin I. Minor and J. T. Morrison
"A Theoretical Study and Critique of Restorative Justice." In Restorative Justice: International Perspectives, edited by Burt Galaway and Joe Hudson. Monsey, NY; Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Criminal Justice Press and Kugler Publications, 1996. p. 117.
Restorative justice provides a very different framework for understanding and responding to crime. Crime is understood as harm to individuals and communities, rather than simply a violation of abstract laws against the state. Those most directly affected by crime -- victims, community members and offenders -- are therefore encouraged to play an active role in the justice process. Rather than the current focus on offender punishment, restoration of the emotional and material losses resulting from crime is far more important.
"Avoiding the Marginalization and 'McDonaldization' of Victim-Offender mediation: A Case Study in Moving Toward the Mainstream" in Restorative Juvenile Justice: Repairing the Harm of Youth Crime, edited by Gordon Bazemore and Lode Walgrave. Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice Press. 1999. p 213.
Restorative justice is concerned with the broader relationships between offenders, victims and communities. All parties are involved in settling the offense and reconciliation. Crime is seen as more than simply a violation of the criminal law. Instead, the key focus is on the damage done to victims and communities and each is seen as having a role to play in responding to the criminal act. As a result of meeting with victims, offenders are expected to gain an understanding of the consequences of their behavior and to develop feelings of remorse.
Hudson, Joe, et al
Family Group Conferences: Perspectives on Policy & Practice. Leicherdt, NSW, Australia; Monsey, NY: The Federation Press, Inc. and Criminal Justice Press, 1996. p. 4.
Restorative justice is a process that brings victims and offenders together to face each other, to inform each other about their crimes and victimization, to learn about each others' backgrounds, and to collectively reach agreement on a 'penalty' or ' sanction.'
"The Impact of Restorative Justice Sanctions on the Lives and Well-Being of Crime Victims: A Review of the International Literature" in Restorative Juvenile Justice: Repairing the Harm of Youth Crime, edited by Gordon Bazemore and Lode Walgrave. Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice Press. 1999. p 306.