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Encyclopedia > Restorative justice

Restorative justice is commonly known as a theory of criminal justice that focuses on crime as an act against another individual or community rather than the state. The victim plays a major role in the process and may receive some type of restitution from the offender. Today, however, "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 South Africa Truth and Reconciliation Commission 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" [Suffolk University, College of Arts & Sciences, Center for Restorative Justice]. The theory of criminal justice is the branch of philosophy of law that deals with criminal justice and in particular punishment. ... Restitution is the name given to a form of legal relief in which the plaintiff recovers something from the defendant that belongs, or should belong, to the plaintiff. ... The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was a court-like body assembled in South Africa after the end of Apartheid. ...

Restorative justice takes many different forms, but all systems have some aspects in common. In criminal cases, victims have an opportunity to express the full impact of the crime upon their lives, to receive answers to any lingering questions about the incident, and to participate in holding the offender accountable for his or her actions. Offenders can tell their story of why the crime occurred and how it has affected their lives. They are given an opportunity to make things right with the victim—to the degree possible—through some form of compensation.[1]

In social justice cases, impoverished people such as foster children are given the opportunity to describe what they hope for their futures and make concrete plans for transitioning out of state custody in a group process with their supporters [Walker, L, 2005, Voma Connections No. 21].

In criminal cases, types of compensation include, but are not limited to: money, community service in general, community service specific to the deed, self-education to prevent recidivism, and/or expression of remorse.

In social justice cases, restorative justice is used for problem solving [Braithwaite, J. 2002].

Restorative justice sometimes happens in the context of a courtroom, and sometimes within a community or nonprofit organization.

In the courtroom, the process might look like this: For petty or first-time offenses, a case may be referred to restorative justice as a pretrial diversion, with charges being dismissed after fulfillment of the restitution agreement. In more serious cases, restorative justice may be part of a sentence that includes prison time or other punishments.

In the community, concerned individuals meet with all affected parties to determine what the experience and impact of the crime were for all. Those called out for offences listen to others' experiences first, preferably until they are able to reflect and feel what those experiences were for the others. Then they speak to their experience: how it was for them to do what they did. A plan is made for prevention of future occurrences, and for the offender to heal the damage to the injured parties. All agree. Community members hold offender accountable for adherence to the plan.

Most academics and government definitions of restorative justice restrict that definition to those programs that involve an encounter between the offender and the victim. Some grassroots organizations, like the Mennonite Central Committee Canada, define restorative justice programs less on who the clientele of the program is, and more on the programs values. This means that programs that only serve victims (or offenders for that matter), but have a restorative framework, are considered a restorative justice program. Restorative justice pioneer Howard Zehr was honored as the recipient of the 2006 Community of Christ International Peace Award. Howard Zehr is Professor of Sociology and Restorative Justice at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia where he also serves as co-director of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. ... Year 2006 (MMVI) was a common year starting on Sunday (link displays full 2006 calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... It has been suggested that Community of Christ membership statistics be merged into this article or section. ... The Community of Christ International Peace Award was established to honor and bring attention to the work of peacemaking and peacemakers in the world. ...



Restorative approaches to crime date back thousands of years:

  • In North America, the first traces of restorative justice have been attributed to the First Nations communities.
  • In Israel, the Pentateuch specified restitution for property crimes.
  • In Sumer, the Code of Ur-Nammu (c. 2060 BC) required restitution for offenses of violence.
  • In Babylon, the Code of Hammurabi (c. 1700 BC) prescribed restitution as a sanction for property offenses.
  • In Rome, the Twelve Tables (449 BC) ordered convicted thieves to pay double the value of stolen goods.
  • In Germany, tribal laws promulgated by King Clovis I (496 AD) called for restitutional sanctions for both violent and nonviolent offenses.
  • In England, the Laws of Ethelbert of Kent (c. 600 AD) included detailed restitution schedules.

Retributive justice began to replace this system following the Norman invasion of Britain. William the Conqueror's son, Henry I, issued laws detailing offenses against the “king’s peace.” By the end of the 11th century, crime was no longer perceived as injurious to persons, but rather was seen as an offense against the state. First Nations is a term of ethnicity used in Canada. ... Look up Pentateuch in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Sumer (or Å umer) was the earliest known civilization of the ancient Near East, located in lower Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) from the time of the earliest records in the mid 4th millennium BC until the rise of Babylonia in the late 3rd millennium BC. The term Sumerian applies to all speakers... The Code of Ur-Nammu is the oldest known tablet containing a law code surviving today. ... Babylon (in Arabic: بابل; in Syriac: ܒܒܙܠ in Hebrew:בבל) was an ancient city in Mesopotamia (modern Al Hillah, Iraq), the ruins of which can be found in present-day Babil Province, about 80km south of Baghdad. ... An inscription of the Code of Hammurabi The Code of Hammurabi (also known as the Codex Hammurabi and Hammurabis Code), created ca. ... Nickname: Motto: SPQR: Senatus Populusque Romanus Location of the city of Rome (yellow) within the Province of Rome (red) and region of Lazio (grey) Coordinates: Region Lazio Province Province of Rome Founded 21 April 753 BC Government  - Mayor Walter Veltroni Area  - City 1,285 km²  (580 sq mi)  - Urban 5... Ordinary Magistrates Extraordinary Magistrates Titles and Honors Emperor Politics and Law The Law of the Twelve Tables (Lex Duodecim Tabularum, more informally simply Duodecim Tabulae) was the ancient legislation that stood at the foundation of Roman law. ... Events August 3 - The Second Council of Ephesus opens, chaired by Dioscorus, Patriarch of Alexandria. ... Clovis I (variously spelled Chlodowech or Chlodwig, giving modern French Louis and modern German Ludwig) (c. ... Events Battle of Tolbiac; Clovis I defeats the Alamanni accepts Catholic baptism at Reims. ... Motto (French) God and my right Anthem No official anthem - the United Kingdom anthem God Save the Queen is commonly used England() – on the European continent() – in the United Kingdom() Capital (and largest city) London (de facto) Official languages English (de facto)1 Government Constitutional monarchy  -  Monarch Queen Elizabeth II... Statue of Ethelbert. ... It has been suggested that Proportional justice be merged into this article or section. ... William I of England (c. ... Henry I (circa 1068 – 1 December 1135) was the fourth son of William the Conqueror and the first born in England after the Norman Conquest of 1066. ... As a means of recording the passage of time, the 11th century was that century which lasted from 1001 to 1100. ...

In the 20th century, restorative justice started becoming more popular. Communities in Canada, the United States, Great Britain, and Australia began instituting restorative justice programs. These ostensibly began with the landmark use of victim offender mediation, in 1974, of a vandalism case in Kitchener, Ontario. Since then, victim offender mediation programs have been successfully addressing both youth and adult crimes, including a range of crimes from very minor to extremely serious crimes (such as murder and sex crimes). It has also been introduced in several schools in England, one being St Augustine of Canterbury (2004) Taunton, Somerset led by a serving police officer, Andy Jenrick BA (Hons). Due to positive results, all secondary schools in Somerset, UK, will receive RJ Training (2006 - 09) This process is currently being duplicated in all schools in the Hull area, implemented by the International Institute of Restorative Practices (IIRP) and restorative practices are used in the Chard and Ilminster Community Justice Panel,Somerset led by Val Keitch. A 2004 study by the University of Minnesota School of Social Work found that thirty U.S. States now have restorative justice at least mentioned in their state statutes. (19th century - 20th century - 21st century - more centuries) Decades: 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s As a means of recording the passage of time, the 20th century was that century which lasted from 1901–2000 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar (1900–1999... This article needs additional references or sources for verification. ... University of Minnesota School of Social Work The School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota is a top-ranked graduate school of social work. ...

Restorative justice processes

Victim-offender mediation

Victim-offender mediation, or VOM (also called victim-offender dialogue, victim-offender conferencing, victim-offender reconciliation, or restorative justice dialogue), is usually a face-to-face meeting, in the presence of a trained mediator, between the victim of a crime and the person who committed that crime. This system generally involves a small number of participants, and often is the only option available to incarcerated offenders, due to limits on visitors. Mediation, a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), aims to assist two (or more) disputants in reaching an agreement. ...

One strong proponent of the use of mediation in restorative justice is Marshall Rosenberg the creator of Nonviolent communication (NVC) and the founder of the Center for Nonviolent Communication. His approach is to have the victim and offender meet, in the presence of a trained NVC mediator. The victim gets to explain how they feel and felt, and what needs were not met as the result of the action of the offender. The offender is to repeat what he or she hears (i.e. feelings and needs) and continue to listen and repeat what the victim says she or he feels and needs. Usually this requires substantial support from the trained NVC mediator to gain clarity about the feelings and needs and to request the offender to say these words back to the victim. Once the victim feels completely heard he or she is then ready to listen to what the offender feels and needs now and felt and needed at the time of the crime, and the victim, if he or she has been heard adequately will be ready to hear and reflect these feelings and needs back to the offender. Usually the session ends with a request from the victim to the offender, and from the offender back to the victim. The requests lead to a strategy for resolution. Rosenberg has mediated such restorative sessions for victims of the violence in Palestine and Israel, as well as Burundi, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Columbia and Sierra Leone, Africa [1]. Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg, born in 1934, to Jewish parents: Jean (Weiner) Rosenberg and Fred Rosenberg. ... Nonviolent communication (NVC) is a process developed by Marshall Rosenberg and others which people use to communicate with greater compassion and clarity. ...

Family group conferencing

Family group conferencing (FGC) has a much wider circle of participants than VOM. In addition to the primary victim and offender, participants may include people connected to the victim, the offender’s family members, and others connected to the offender. FGC is often the most appropriate system for juvenile cases, due to the important role of the family in a juvenile offender’s life. An example of the use of FGC in a juvenile justice setting can be found in the statutory scheme operating in the State of New South Wales in Australia - under the Young Offenders Act 1997. The scheme has been favourably evaluated by the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics & Research.

Community restorative boards

A community restorative board typically is composed of a small group of citizens, prepared for this function by intensive training, who conduct public, face-to-face meetings with offenders sentenced by the court to participate in the process. During a meeting, board members discuss with the offender the nature of the offense and its negative consequences. Then board members develop a set of proposed sanctions which they discuss with the offender, until they reach agreement on the specific actions the offender will take within a given time period to make reparation for the crime. Subsequently, the offender must document his or her progress in fulfilling the terms of the agreement. After the stipulated period of time has passed, the board submits a report to the court on the offender’s compliance with the agreed upon sanctions. At this point, the board’s involvement with the offender is ended.

Restorative circles

Hawaii has designed a reentry process using restorative justice principals for prison inmates and their loved ones to address reconciliation and developing a transition plan. The group works together to address how the inmate might meet his or her needs establishing timelines and what she or he needs to do to carry out the plan [2].

Circles of support and accountability

Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) originated as a project of the "Welcome In," a Mennonite church in Hamilton, Ontario. This thoroughly Canadian innovation is now an internationally regarded, evidence-based practice with a demonstrable capacity to enhance the safe integration of otherwise high-risk sex offenders with their community. In Canada, some sex offenders are released to the community after serving all of their sentence. They have been judged too dangerous to be released on any form of conditional release (e.g. a parole certificate), and have therefore been "detained." Upon further reconviction (and therefore, further victimization), many of these offenders would likely be designated as a "Dangerous Offender," under current Canadian law. Prior to 1994 many of these offenders were released without any form of meaningful community-based support or accountability network apart from police surveillance. Since 1994, CoSA has assisted with the integration of well over 120 such offenders by offering them support while holding them accountable. Research now indicates that surrounding a 'core member' with between 5 and 7 carefully selected and trained volunteer circle members significantly reduces sexual re-offence by upwards of 50%. Further, a significant "harm reduction" effect has also been noted in those cases where sexual reoffence has occurred. Offences were less invasive and less brutal in nature than previous offences. CoSA projects now exist in every Canadian province and every major urban centre. CoSA projects are also operational in several U.S. states (California, Oregon, Ohio, Colorado, Vermont) as well as in the Thames Valley region of the United Kingdom.

Sentencing circles

Sentencing circles (sometimes called peacemaking circles) use traditional circle ritual and structure to involve the victim, victim supporters, the offender, offender supporters, judge and court personnel, prosecutor, defense counsel, police, and all interested community members. Within the circle, people can speak from the heart in a shared search for understanding of the event, and together identify the steps necessary to assist in healing all affected parties and prevent future crimes.

Sentencing circles typically involve a multi-step procedure that includes: (1) application by the offender to participate in the circle process; (2) a healing circle for the victim; (3) a healing circle for the offender; (4) a sentencing circle to develop consensus on the elements of a sentencing plan; and (5) follow-up circles to monitor the progress of the offender.

Limitations on restitution

Some judicial systems only support monetary restitution agreements. For instance, if the victim and offender agreed that the offender would pay $100.00 and mow the victim's lawn 5 times during the months of June and July, the court would only note the $100.00 as restitution. To avoid difficulty in collecting the full restitution, some agreements specify a larger monetary amount (e.g. $200.00) to be paid if the nonmonetary restitution is not provided.

Many jurisdictions place a cap on the restitution a juvenile offender can be required to pay. Labor regulations typically limit the personal service tasks that can be performed by minors. In addition, personal work service usually must be supported by the juvenile's parents. This article is in need of attention. ... In law, a person who is not yet a legal adult is known as a minor (known in some places as an infant or juvenile). ...

According to the Victim Offender Mediation Association, victims are not allowed to make a profit from restitution; only their actual out-of-pocket losses can be recovered. Young offenders are often willing to agree to anything to have the session end. If the restitution is unreasonable, however, the court may throw the agreement out. Out-of-pocket expenses are direct outlays of cash which are not reimbursed. ...

If the facilitator is not adequately trained in avoiding these pitfalls, a failed restitution agreement may result.


Some restorative justice systems, especially victim-offender mediation and family group conferencing, require participants to sign a confidentiality agreement. These agreements usually state that anything discussed in the conference will not be disclosed to non-participants. The rationale for confidentiality is that it promotes open and honest communication during the process.

Cases unsuitable for restorative justice

Cases in which the offender denies responsibility for the crime or has no remorse are unsuitable for restorative justice and are usually referred back to court. Also, offenders who are unable to take responsibility, such as those with significant Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, or a serious mental illness, are not suitable to an encounter with their victim.

If the victim is unwilling to participate, the effectiveness of restorative justice is diminished, because the process depends on holding the offender directly accountable to the victim. Offenses without a readily identifiable victim, such as truancy or marijuana possession, are less suitable for restorative justice than other crimes, according to Prince William County, Virginia juvenile probation officer Danielle McCauley. Victimless crime has the following applications: A victimless crime is one in which the victim is the accused. ... Prince William County is a county located in the Commonwealth of Virginia, a state of the United States. ...

Recidivism statistics

A study of 1,298 juveniles conducted throughout the late 1980s and 1990s found a 32% reduction in recidivism relative to a comparison group, according to an article in the Summer 1999 edition of VOMA Connections. The Fiscal Year 2004 annual report of Prince William County, Virginia's Restorative Justice Program found that of the 234 offenders served in Fiscal Year 2003, 18 had re-offended through June 30, 2004, for a recidivism rate of 8%. A 2001 report by Department of Justice Canada found that "restorative justice programs, on average, yielded reductions in recidivism compared to non-restorative approaches to criminal behavior". These findings were corroborated by a 2007 Cambridge University report. This article does not cite any references or sources. ... For the band, see 1990s (band). ... Recidivism is the act of a person repeating an undesirable behavior after they have either experienced negative consequences of that behavior, or have been treated or trained to extinguish that behavior. ... Year 2004 (MMIV) was a leap year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Prince William County is a county located in the Commonwealth of Virginia, a state of the United States. ... Year 2003 (MMIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 2004 (MMIV) was a leap year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 2001 (MMI) was a common year starting on Monday (link displays the 2001 Gregorian calendar). ... The purpose of the Department of Justice is to ensure that the Canadian justice system is fair, accessible and efficient. ... Year 2007 (MMVII) is the current year, a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar and the AD/CE era. ... The University of Cambridge is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world, with one of the most selective sets of entry requirements in the United Kingdom. ...

See also

This article is in need of attention from an expert on the subject. ... Conflict resolution or conflictology is the process of attempting to resolve a dispute or a conflict. ... Mediation, a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), aims to assist two (or more) disputants in reaching an agreement. ... Transformative justice is a general philosophical strategy for responding to conflicts. ...


  • Leo Zaibert, Punishment And Retribution (Ashgate Publishing 2006)
  • A Shifting Paradigm: Modern Restorative Justice Principles Have Their Roots in Ancient Cultures, Reginald A. Wilkinson, Corrections Today, Dec. 1997.
  • Similarities and Differences Between Family Group Conferencing and Victim-Offender Mediation, Family Group Conferencing: Implications for Crime Victims, Mark S. Umbreit, Ph.D., Center for Restorative Justice & Peacemaking (formerly Center for Restorative Justice & Mediation), School of Social Work, University of Minnesota St. Paul, Minnesota, Apr. 2000.
  • Restorative Justice FAQ, Victim Offender Mediation Association.
  • Community Restorative Board, Restorative Justice Fact Sheet, U.S. Department of Justice.
  • Sentencing Circles, Restorative Justice Fact Sheet, U.S. Department of Justice.
  • [3], Peacemaking Circle process (Minnesota)
  • Interview of Danielle McCauley, Analysis and Recommendation for Streamlining Restorative Justice Case Management, Nathan Larson, Prince William County Restorative Justice Program, Dec. 14, 2001.
  • Participation in Victim-Offender Mediation Reduces Recidivism, William R. Nugent, Ph.D, Mark S. Umbreit, Ph.D., Lizabeth Wiinamaki, Jeff Paddock, VOMA Connections, Sum. 1999.
  • Annual Report FY 2004, Restorative Justice Program, Prince William County Office of Dispute Resolution, 2004.
  • The Effectiveness of Restorative Justice Practices: A Meta-Analysis, Research and Statistics Division Methodological Series, Department of Justice Canada, 2001.
  • Braithwaite, J., Restorative Justice and Responsive Regulation, 2002.
  • Suffolk University, College of Arts & Sciences, Center for Restorative Justice, [4]
  • Walker, L., E Makua Ana Youth Circles: A Transition Planning Process for Youth Exiting Foster Care, 2005, VOMA Connections No. 21, [5]
  • [www.hawaiifriends.org]
  • Hopkins, B., Just Schools: A Whole School Approach to Restorative Justice, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, March 2004, 208 pages.
  • Leo Zaibert, Punishment And Retribution (Ashgate Publishing 2006).

External links

  Results from FactBites:
Restorative justice - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1570 words)
Restorative justice is a theory of criminal justice that focuses on crime as an act against another individual or community rather than the state.
Victim-offender mediation, or VOM (also called victim-offender dialogue, victim-offender conferencing, victim-offender reconciliation, or restorative justice dialogue), is usually a face-to-face meeting, in the presence of a trained mediator, between the victim of a crime and the person who committed that crime.
A community restorative board typically is composed of a small group of citizens, prepared for this function by intensive training, who conduct public, face-to-face meetings with offenders sentenced by the court to participate in the process.
  More results at FactBites »



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