Home > What is Restorative Justice?

In a gentle way, you can shake the world.
- Gandhi

What is Restorative justice?

Restorative justice is a different way to look at justice. It aims to:

  • Put key decisions in the hands of those most affected by crime
  • Make justice more healing and transformative
  • Reduce likelihood of future crime

Restorative justice is based on three underlying premises:

  1. Crime is a violation of people and relationships
  2. Violation creates obligations on those who committed the harm
  3. The central obligation is as much as possible to make things right

Restorative Justice vs. Retributive Justice

The criminal justice system is retributive and focuses on establishing guilt and punishing the person who broke the law.

Retributive justice is based on three questions:

  1. What law was broken?
  2. Who broke the law?
  3. What is the punishment?

On the other hand, restorative justice is a dialogue-driven approach that restores victims, offenders and community members who have been harmed by crime.  Ideally, each stakeholder should be actively involved in the justice process. 

Restorative justice is based on a different set of questions:

  1. What is the harm?
  2. How do we repair the harm?
  3. Who is responsible for repairing the harm?
Restorative Justice Retributive Justice
Crime is a violation of people and relationships Crime is a violation of the law and state
Violations create obligations Violations create guilt and require someone to blame
Justice requires victims, offenders and community members in an effort to make things right Justice requires the state to determine guilt and impose punishment
Central focus: meet needs of person harmed, primarily by the person who caused the harm Central focus: offenders get what they deserve