THE THREE R'S OF RESTORATIVE JUSTICE
Restorative Justice is not a program, nor a means of dealing with crime or wrongdoing; it is both a philosophical view and a set of values and principles that relate to how we respond to incidents of crime and harm.
Restorative Justice views crime as harm done to people and relationships, rather than the breaking of laws. Criminal and harmful acts produce obligations for those who have committed those wrongful acts: obligations to their victims that need to be fulfilled; and obligations to the community that has been negatively impacted by the event. Those who have caused harm need to make things right.
Restorative Justice acknowledges that those who have been most directly impacted by a crime have needs: a need for answers, a desire to understand what happened and why; a need to share what the impact and effects have been; a need for healing and closure. Our traditional court process inadequately meets these needs, but Restorative Justice can provide for them, through safely guided processes that allow those who have been harmed by crime and those who are responsible for the harm to meet together, and by empowering harmed parties to have a say in how the matter will be resolved.
Restorative Justice is also about meeting the needs of the responsible party, and coming to understand why the wrongful act happened in the first place so that their underlying needs can be addressed. “High accountability and high support” are two hallmarks of a healthy process that holds responsible parties accountable for their behaviour, but provides them with the support they need to face those they have harmed and make meaningful amends. That high degree of support should include helping the responsible party connect with their community in a way that is re-integrative, rather than shaming or isolating.
Restorative Justice looks toward the future. “What do we want to see happen here so you can move forward in a positive way, feeling that this situation has been taken care of?” The focus is not on punishment, but on repairing the harm, restoring broken relationships, and rebuilding the community (a phrase coined by Colette Squires while she was the Executive Director of ARJAA) that has been damaged by the event. These Three R’s of Restorative Justice form an easy way to remember the essential ingredients of a restorative process.
Restorative Justice is not a “soft” approach that gives offenders an easy way out. To the contrary, facing one’s victim and having to answer for one’s actions and behaviour can be an extremely difficult and emotional process. Therein lies the power of Restorative Justice, for it is in that powerful encounter between victim and offender that empathy and understanding begin to grow. Seeing one another beyond judgments, assumptions and labels, it is in this light that reconciliation and resolution can begin to take place.
Click on the link below for the Correctional Service of Canada's "Restorative Justice Fact Sheet"