What is Restorative Justice?

As an “alternative” to the conventional adversarial approach of crime and justice, restorative justice (RJ) is founded on three different distinct principles:

  • First, RJ believes that crime is a violation of people and interpersonal relationships. Therefore, any act of crime or wrongdoing is considered a breach of mutual trust and dignity that each person holds of others, and not of an impersonal law.
  • Second, RJ asserts that all violations, crimes or wrongdoing create obligations towards the party against whom the wrong has occurred. This obligation has to be fulfilled by the person who causes the harm.
  • Third, RJ emphasizes that the central obligation is to right the wrongs.

In other words, justice does not end just at the event of crime, but it goes beyond in making collective effort in making things right.

Howard Zehr

In words of Howard Zehr, one of the founding fathers of the RJ movement:

“Restorative justice is a process to involve, to the extent possible, those who have a stake in a specific offense and to collectively identify and address harms, needs and obligations, in order to heal and put things right as possible” (Changing Lens, 2002, p. 37).