According to Dr. Carolyn Boyes-Watson (2000), restorative justice is a broad term which encompasses a growing social movement to institutionalize peaceful approaches to harm, problem-solving and violations of legal and human rights. These range from international peacemaking tribunals such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa to innovations within our criminal justice system, schools, social services and communities.
Rather than privileging the law, professionals and the state, restorative resolutions engage those who are harmed, wrongdoers and their affected communities in search of solutions that promote repair, reconciliation and the rebuilding of relationships. Restorative justice seeks to build partnerships to reestablish mutual responsibility for constructive responses to wrongdoing within our communities.
Restorative approaches seek a balanced approach to the needs of the victim, wrongdoer and community through processes that preserve the safety and dignity of all. (Boyes-Watson, C. (2000). Suffolk University, College of Arts & Sciences, Center for Restorative Justice)
Restorative Justice is Values
Restorative justice is a value-based approach to conflict and harm. These values are often identified as inclusion, democracy, responsibility, reparation, safety, healing and reintegration. But one value is more essential than any other—Respect.
Restorative Justice is Process
For Victims. Restorative responses empower victims by offering them a voice in the process, an opportunity to ask questions and seek answers, afford them a role in decision-making and avenues for healing, restitution and emotional support.
For Wrongdoers. Restorative responses enable wrongdoers to be accountable for their conduct; affords opportunities to make amends and express remorse; offers constructive ways to repair harm; supports making responsible choices; and creates forums for forgiveness, reconciliation and reintegration.
For Communities. Restorative responses re-invest citizens with the power to contribute meaningfully to the resolution of community problems; allows citizens to articulate and affirm the moral standards of the community; provides a forum for addressing the underlying conditions which generate harm; and contributes towards the building of safe, thriving and peaceful communities.
Restorative Justice is Practice
These practices include:
- Victim-Offender Dialogue
- Family Group Conferencing
- Community/School Conferencing
- Peacemaking Circles
- Reparative Boards
- Truth/ Reconciliation Commissions
- Victim Impact Panels
- Restorative Community Service
- Victim Support/Services
- Reintegration Services