“According to Braithwaite (2004), restorative justice is:
…a process where all stakeholders affected by an injustice have an opportunity to discuss how they have been affected by the injustice and to decide what should be done to repair the harm.
With crime, restorative justice is about the idea that because crime hurts, justice should heal. It follows that conversations with those who have been hurt and with those who have afflicted the harm must be central to the process.
The process of restorative justice necessitates a shift in responsibility for addressing crime. In a restorative justice process, the citizens who have been affected by a crime must take an active role in addressing that crime.
Although law professionals may have secondary roles in facilitating the restorative justice process, it is the citizens who must take up the majority of the responsibility in healing the pains caused by crime.
According to Zehr and Mika (1998), there are three key ideas that support restorative justice.
First is the understanding that the victim and the surrounding community have both been affected by the action of the offender and, in addition, restoration is necessary.
Second, the offender’s obligation is to make amends with both the victim and the involved community.
Third, and the most important process of restorative justice, is the concept of ‘healing,’ or the collaborative unburdening of pain for the victim, offender, and community.
All parties engage in creating agreements in order to avoid recidivism and to restore safety for how the wrongdoing can be righted which allows the victim to have direct say in the judgment process. This gives offenders the opportunity to understand the harm they have caused, while demonstrating to the community that the offender might also have suffered prior harm.
Healing by reintegration of offenders into the community, strives to restore harmony, health, and well-being by comprising personal accountability, decision-making and the putting right of harm. This inclusion as opposed to exclusion, demonstrates the capability of transformation of the administration of criminal justice, mental health, psychology and public policy norms.
Examples of healing include: victim offender mediation, conferencing, healing circles, victim and ex-offender assistance, restitution, and community service, each method healing in different ways.
Restorative justice principles are characterized by four key values:
first, the encounter of both parties. This step involves the offender, the victim, the community and any other party who was involved in the initial crime.
Second, the amending process takes place. In this step, the offender(s) will take the steps necessary to help repair the harm caused.
Third, reintegration begins. In this phase, restoration of both the victim and the offender takes place. In addition, this step also involves the community and others who were involved in the initial crime.
Finally, the inclusion stage provides the open opportunity for both parties to participate in finding a resolution. The process of restorative justice is lengthy and must be committed to by both parties for effective results.
Restorative justice is defined as:
…a growing social movement to institutionalize peaceful approaches to harm, problem-solving and violations of legal and human rights. These range from international peacemaking tribunals such as the South Africa Truth and Reconciliation Commission to innovations within the criminal and juvenile justice systems, schools, social services and communities. Rather than privileging the law, professionals and the state, restorative resolutions engage those who are harmed, wrongdoers and their affected communities in search of solutions that promote repair, reconciliation and the rebuilding of relationships.
Restorative justice seeks to build partnerships to reestablish mutual responsibility for constructive responses to wrongdoing within our communities.
Restorative approaches seek a balanced approach to the needs of the victim, wrongdoer and community through processes that preserve the safety and dignity of all.”
Restorative justice is very different from either the adversarial legal process or that of civil litigation. J. Braithwaite writes, “Court-annexed ADR (alternative dispute resolution) and restorative justice could not be philosophically further apart”, because the former seeks to address only legally relevant issues and to protect both parties’ rights, whereas restorative justice seeks “expanding the issues beyond those that are legally relevant, especially into underlying relationships.”
Traditional criminal justice seeks answers to three questions: What laws have been broken? Who did it? and What do the offender(s) deserve?
Restorative justice instead asks: Who has been harmed? What are their needs? Whose obligations are these?”