What is Restorative Justice (RJ)?
Restorative Justice is a process used to address harm, hold others accountable, and build or repair community. RJ is derived from practices of the First Nation’s people of North America and Australia. It is used around the world in elementary schools, Institutions of Higher Education, Communities, and as an addition or alternative to processes in the criminal justice system.
A formal definition: Restorative Justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior. It is best accomplished through cooperative processes that allow all willing stakeholders to meet, although other approaches are available when that is impossible. This can lead to the transformation of people, relationships, and communities. The foundational principles of RJ include that a Crime causes harm and justice should focus on repairing that harm. b)The people most affected by the crime should be able to participate in its resolution.
What does the process look like?
Restorative Justice Conferences provide harmed parties and others with an opportunity to confront the offender, express their feelings, ask questions and have a say in the outcome. Offenders hear firsthand how their behavior has affected people. Offenders may choose to participate in a conference and begin to repair the harm they have caused by apologizing, making amends and agreeing to personal or community service work. Conferences hold offenders accountable while providing them with an opportunity to discard the “offender” label and be reintegrated into their community, school or workplace.2
Each party is able to have a support person with them at all times. Two facilitators will meet with each party and support people individually. These meetings are called Pre-conference meetings, the purpose is to prepare each party for the conference. This includes discussing the questions that will be posed in the conference, digging deeper into the needs of each party, ensuring a safe space before, during and after the conference, and if needed, providing education to the parties about the impact of their actions.
During the conference, each party will have questions posed to them by the facilitators. The other party will be invited to listen and will wait to respond. The format of the conference is structured to allow each party to speak about the incident and the impacts, and prevent people from being spoken over.