Restorative justice is an approach to achieving justice that involves, to the extent possible, those who have a stake in a specific offense or harm to collectively identify and address harms, needs, and obligations in order to heal and put things as right as possible.

Zehr, 2015, p. 48

Restorative justice is a framework for responding to harm and injustice in a variety of settings, including reported and unreported crimes; non-criminal harms occurring within workplaces, schools, families, and communities; systemic violence and oppression, and historical and collective harms. Based on a recognition of harm as a violation of people and relationships, restorative approaches aim to respond in ways that promote equitable and healthy relationships among people and within our social systems. Beyond a specific program or practice, restorative justice has been described as a “compass” for achieving justice based on a set of guiding principles. These principles guide the development of programs, practices and justice reforms:

Guiding Principles of Restorative Justice 1

  • Relationally focused: attention to interconnection, seeking to understand and promote just relations between individuals, groups and communities.

  • Comprehensive and holistic: takes into account histories, contexts and causes of harm and its impacts.

  • Inclusive and participatory: culturally grounded and trauma informed, attentive to the needs of parties and the safety and well-being of participants.

  • Responsive: Contextual, flexible practice, accessible, efficient and effective processes, informed by data and knowledge.

  • Focused on promoting individual and collective accountability & responsibility.

  • Collaborative and non-adversarial: among parties to the process and system and community partners.

  • Forward-focused: educative (not punitive), problem-solving, preventative and proactive.

1 Used with gratitude from the Nova Scotia Restorative Justice Program

Where appropriate, restorative justice provides opportunities for people harmed, those responsible, and affected community members to communicate directly or indirectly about what happened, who was impacted and how, who is taking responsibility for what, and what needs to happen to address the needs of all. Restorative justice dialogue processes are guided by trained facilitators and can take various forms depending on the community, program, and needs of the participants.

Benefits of Restorative Justice

Parties involved in restorative justice processes have often indicated the following benefits resulting from participation.