Skip to main content

What is Restorative Justice?#

Restorative justice is a philosophical framework which has been proposed as an alternative to the current way of thinking about crime and criminal justice. RJ emphasizes the ways in which crime harms relationships in the context of community. (Minnesota Dept. of Corrections)

Restorative justice gives priority to repairing the harm done to victims and communities, and offender accountability is defined in terms of assuming responsibility and taking action to repair harm. (Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Judges Commission)

What Does "Restorative" Mean?#

Traditionally when a crime is committed, the justice system has been primarily concerned with three questions:

  1. Who did it?
  2. What laws were broken?
  3. What should be done to punish or treat the offender?

This type of approach is considered retributive, where the intent is to get retribution or punishment for an offense committed.

Restorative justice programs emphasize three very different questions:

  1. What is the nature of the harm resulting from the crime?
  2. What needs to be done to "make it right" or repair the harm?
  3. Who is responsible for this repair?

This approach is restorative, where the intent is to restore the community affected by the crime as close as possible to pre-crime conditions.

Restorative justice also suggests that the response to youth crime must strike a balance among the needs of victims, offenders and communities and that each should be actively involved in the justice process.