What is Restorative Justice?
Restorative Justice is a movement and set of practices that stands as an alternative to retributive justice. Rather than emphasizing punishment and separation of the offender from society, Restorative Justice revolves around a different set of concerns. Foremost is that those harmed by violence or other forms of crime should have a way to give voice to the full impact of what they’ve experienced; that their needs for safety and healing will be addressed; and that they might help shape what form justice should take.
Second, Restorative Justice practices are oriented to ways that those who have committed harm may step into accountability and be restored into their best selves. A beginning step on this road is to fully face the extent of the harm they have caused. Thirdly, Restorative Justice practices address ways that communities torn apart by violence and trauma may find a way to bind themselves together again.
Restorative Justice is not a panacea, nor is it always an appropriate choice for particular acts that create harm. However a growing body of research is pointing to its usefulness in reducing recidivism and creating far more satisfaction with the justice process, both for those who have been harmed, and by those who have perpetrated harm, according to Dr. Mark Umbreit, Director of the Center for Restorative Justice & Peacemaking at the University of Minnesota. The burgeoning interest in Restorative Justice occurs at a time when U.S. practices of justice are under scrutiny. We have extraordinarily high rates of incarceration , and a system that is demonstrably inequitable to people of color This sense of a broken system is galvanizing an interest in searching for a more equitable and effective approach to justice. Our current emphasis on retributive justice seems to create a system where those who are harmed by crime have little voice in shaping a just response; punishments and sentences do little to promote accountability or the reclamation of identity; and communities are fractured. Restorative Justice practices offer a partial response to these dilemmas.