What is Restorative Justice?

Restorative justice focuses on identifying and healing the harms caused by crime and violence. Restorative approaches bring the victim to the center of the justice process unlike traditional offender-centered approaches which prioritize punishment of the offender. When offenders are involved in a restorative justice process they can understand the real, human impacts and consequences of their actions and hold themselves accountable. Offenders can often actively engage in working to mend the damage they have done. Restorative justice offers empowerment to victims, giving them a voice and many avenues of support. Offenders are also empowered to take ownership of their actions. Traditional retributive responses to crime further social divisions and remove the impacted community from the justice process, restorative responses hope to establish an understanding between victim and offender and bring relationship building and community to the heart of the justice process.

However, restorative justice is not limited to clearcut victim-offender criminal cases. Parties in conflict may be simultaneously victims and offenders. As I see it, restorative justice as a concept is not confined to mediation processes or strict and set courses of action, in my mind it can be much more broad and abstract, an theory of relationship-building and community empowerment hovering around principles of honesty, respect and trust.

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