What is Restorative Justice?
In relation to the criminal justice system, Restorative Justice is an approach to justice that focuses on addressing the harm caused by crime by providing an opportunity for those harmed and those who take responsibility for the harm to identify and address their needs in the aftermath of a crime.
Restorative Justice seeks to repair the harm caused by crime and violence by:
- Addressing victims’ needs
- Holding offenders meaningfully accountable for their actions
- Engaging the community in the justice process.
The Restorative Justice Process
While the Restorative Justice is done in different ways depending on the nature of the crime and needs of the individuals involved, the goal is to engage the parties in appropriate ways to come to understand and determine:
- What has happened
- Who has been impacted
- What matters about what happened and what are the harms, impacts and experiences
- What needs to happen to address the harms and impacts in a way that will make things right.
Generally, a restorative process will involve multiple sessions that bring together those who are connected to the case. These people can include, as appropriate:
- Those who have been harmed or affected
- Those who are responsible for causing the harm
- Those who can offer information or provide support the process
The plans, actions and outcomes of a restorative process vary depending on the situation, circumstances, issues and needs involved in each case.
Benefits of Restorative Justice for Victims
- Victims who choose to participate can tell the offender how the crime affected them, ask questions about what has happened, and have a say in how to address the harm they have experienced.
- Participating in a restorative process can contribute to the victims’ healing and recovery.
- Most victims who participate in a restorative justice process are very satisfied with the experience and results and feel listened to and acknowledged, receive answers to their questions, experience an increased sense of safety and, in some cases, receive financial compensation from the offender (called restitution).
Benefits of Restorative Justice for Offenders
- Restorative Justice helps offenders’ face those have been affected by their behaviour, understand the impact of their actions, and take whatever steps they can to address the harm they have causes.
- Offenders have an opportunity to talk about the circumstances of the crime and they can fulfill their obligations to the victim and community in ways that can be meaningful than through other criminal justice processes.
- Offenders can acknowledge the harm done to the victim and community by providing an apology, or fulfilling the conditions of an agreement between created by the participants.
Benefits of Restorative Justice for Community:
- Restorative Justice is empowers communities to play a role in responding to crime in a way that meaningful.
- It is an opportunity for community to talk about their values, the issues that cause/contribute to crime and concerns about community safety and wellbeing.
It is important to note that restorative justice is not appropriate for all situations and cases are thoroughly assessed and discussed
Department of Justice: https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/rj-jr/index.html
Federal-Provincial-Territorial Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Justice and Public Safety, Principles and Guidelines for Restorative Practice in Criminal Matters (2018): https://scics.ca/en/product-produit/principles-and-guidelines-for-restorative-justice-practice-in-criminal-matters-2018/
Mi’kmaq Confederacy of Prince Edward Island Indigenous Justice Program: http://mcpei.ca/#programs
Canadian Restorative Justice Consortium: https://www.crjc.ca/
For more information contact: