Restorative justice is an approach that focuses on the harm caused to people by a crime or other wrong rather than on the violation of a law. Restorative Justice (RJ) engages people most affected by a harm to talk about what happened, how people were impacted and to come to a common understanding about how the harm can be repaired or addressed.
Restorative justice brings together the victim (or person harmed) the offender (or person responsible for the harm and their supporters with conveners, trained professionals who facilitate an interaction, usually a face to face meeting or conference. In a restorative justice conference, participants can share their experiences and feelings, ask questions, find out more information and, together, identify ways to repair or address the harm.
Restorative justice offers benefits to victims, offenders and the broader community by meeting needs that are not capable of being met by the justice system. Studies have found that victims are much more satisfied following a restorative justice process than a criminal justice process. Studies have also found that participation in restorative justice processes reduces an offender’s risk of recidivism.
The terms restorative justice and restorative practice are often used interchangeably; however, they are distinct. Restorative justice is more synonymous with the justice system while restorative practices seek to build social capital by strengthening relationships between individuals and within communities. Through participatory learning and decision-making, restorative practices seek to repair harm, address conflict and build community.
Restorative practices are most commonly employed in schools, as an approach to manage relationships and conflict in the school community.