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Restorative Justice: Principles, Practices and Its Future in Society

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Since criminal behavior directly impacts the victims, offender and community, restorative justice is an alternative “peacemaking” approach to law-enforced punitive punishment. Punitive punishment, often, perpetuates more criminal behavior by the offender because of the stigma once arrested and convicted. Depending on the crime, the victims may not seek the justice needed to satisfy the effects of the crime. Restoration justice’s popularity throughout Europe, North America and Australia as a rehabilitation process for offenders is due to the concept of replacing power back into the hands of those closely affected by criminal behavior when judiciary laws don’t provide the justice the parties need to gain closure. In order for this transitional form of justice to be effective, the community must encourage and support both the offender and victim to meet and remedy the emotional, financial and psychological damage caused by the offender’s actions. Ultimately, restorative justice serves a reparative purpose that allows “all the parties with a stake in a particular offence to come together and resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of the offence and its implications for the future”.

The restorative justice is that crime violates people and relationships, not just the law (Latimer, Dowden & Muise, 2005). In order for the punishment to fit crime, the proper solution to criminal behavior is “to repair the harm caused by the wrongful act.” Advocates for restorative justice prefer that the criminal justice system provides the victim, the offender, and the community the opportunity to, voluntarily, face each other and come to a conclusion for reparation. Essentially, the restorative justice process principles include: voluntariness, truth-telling, and a face-to-face encounter. In the end, the offender needs to accept responsibility for his or her actions. All parties should agree to meet at a safe place in order to feel comfortable and honest to discuss the criminal behaviour. There are five points of the criminal justice system where the offender would be referred to participate in either conferences, mediations or circles. The five points are: 

  1. Police (precharge) 
  2. Crown (postcharge) 
  3. Courts (presentence) 
  4. Corrections (post-sentence) 
  5. Parole (pre-revocation). 

Recidivism decreases amongst offenders because the process of restoration justice is fair and destigmatizes the offender as well as allows him the opportunity to transition normally into society. The offender feels vindicated as he or she give restitution to the victim and community.

A group of community members, including both victims and offenders of a racially motivated assault, unite and meet in a peacemaking circle to openly discuss the cause and effects of the assault (Umbreit, Vos, Coates & Lightfoot, 2005). They share the impact of the incident on the community, and develop a detailed plan for to work together to repair the harm caused by the assault. The community meets several more times to understand diversity and foster cultural programs to start healing the community. Community member in collaboration with juvenile probation department provide rehabilitation programs for juvenile offenders. The mentoring adults address accountability, restitution and teach to help with the youth’s development. These scenarios show how restorative justice works. When the victim, offender and community are involved in the criminal justice system through restoration, the community begin to heal, the offender is treated fairly and the victim gains closure.

Although, restorative justice is becoming very popular worldwide, it’s future is still very uncertain. Law officials are still concerned with how adopting restorative justice into the criminal corrections will affect sentencing, the quality of law, order and justice in the United States and the allocation of government resources. The most important concern is public safety because if these restorative programs fail, a criminal is able to misuse the process for his benefit with no remorse. When the ideas of public safety and restorative are examined closely, there opposing concerns as to how to ensure offenders don’t threaten public safety while in the restorative process. A few states have implemented into their criminal justice systems restorative measures to get communities involved in developing offenders. Minnesota’s Department of Corrections has a full-time restorative justice planner. Vermont’s Corrections Commissioner is methodically moving towards partnering with informal community boards to restore victims, offenders, and communities.

On the other hand, a few states are more concerned with public safety and have imposed more punitive measures for offenders such as Washington State. The state amended its “just deserts”-based corrections law in 1999, effecting a strategic redeployment of probation and parole agents. They are like watchdogs, and their sole responsibility is to observe and supervise offenders. Wisconsin is another state that has redeployed its community corrections staff, in two counties, to ensure community safety. An assessment must be conducted to determine an offender’s merit and eligibility. The future of restorative justice is to rid the concepts of “just-deserts” and retribution in order to prevent recidivism positively amongst offender. In return, it allows the victim and community a chance to gain appropriate justice.

In order for restorative justice to be implemented in laws and in criminal proceedings, society’s perception and representation must change. Public safety is often equated with more law officials, more arrests, more prisons, more prisoners, longer and stricter punitive sentences. Even though this view of safety is extreme, it has proven in some societies to reduce recidivism. Public safety is threatened when an offender is in the same place and time of a potential victim. Restorative justice threatens public safety because offenders on probation and parole case management are amongst society attempting to transition back into society. If activists are serious about restorative justice than the community must protect their neighborhoods and families. They unofficial are neighborhood watchers and guardians aimed to protect vulnerable targets and people who have an intimate or supervisory relationship to potential offenders (under correctional supervision or not). These community members are responsible for ensuring public safety when a vulnerable person and offender may potentially exist in the same space.

Community corrections must operate at a greater capacity and work with city and law officials to effectively implement restorative justice in the judiciary system. Public safety and restorative justice requires not just redeploying personnel and resources, but also establishing collaborative relationships with everyone needed to make both ideas a realization. Law officials, victims, offenders and guardians must all collaborate rather than compete against each other. Constituencies must stimulate greater demand for community action by changing laws and perform a huge removal of sentences. In order for restoration to succeed along with public safety the community must work with its government to finance restorative programs, reparative conferences, community outreach, restitution and service initiatives, neighborhood watch groups and present both victim and offender a safe haven to remedy the pain or harm caused from previous criminal behavior. Law officials will only be willing to incorporate restorative justice into the criminal justice system if the community can operate interdependently with its government (Smith, 2001).


  • Latimer, J., Dowden, C., Muise, D. (June 2005). Restorative Justice Practices The Effectiveness Of Restorative Justice Practices: A Meta-analysis. The Prison Journal, 85(2), 127-144.
  • Umbreit, M. S., Vos, B., Coates, R. B., Lightfoot, E. (2005). Restorative Justice In The Twenty-first Century: A Social Movement Full Of Opportunities And Pitfalls. Marquette Law Review, 89, 251-304.
  • Smith, M. E. (2001). What Future for “Public Safety” and “Restorative Justice” in Community Corrections? Sentencing & Corrections, 11, 1-8.

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