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Restorative Justice

In A Nutshell:


Restorative Justice (RJ) is an old/new way of doing justice that seeks to heal ham by involving the people most affected - including those who caused the harm. In an attempt to fill in some of the gaps of the Canadian and US criminal legal systems (CLS), the current field of RJ emerged in the 1970s in practice first, then theory. However, many RJ values, principles, and some of its practices are derived from native and aboriginal traditions that date back many centuries. 

Central to RJ are core values of respect and interconnectedness. RJ believes that everyone, without exception, has inherent dignity and deserves to be treated with respect. Because we are all inextricably connected, when one is harmed, all are harmed. And when we hurt each other, we have an obligation to put things as right as possible, or "more right."

Some of the most common RJ practices are the Victim Offender Dialogue, Family Group Conference, and Circle Process. Each brings together, after adequate preparation, people who caused harm and those who were harmed in a facilitated meeting. The premise is that structured and safe face-to-face dialogue creates opportunities for greater understanding and potential growth and healing.

Beyond its application to situations within the CLS context, RJ can be used wherever there is a relationship and harm. RJ can be practiced in everyday life and for many is a lifestyle. Also, RJ can be used to address systemic harm and violence, such as through truth and reconciliation commissions.

RJ is rooted in values, principles, and guiding questions.


1. We are all connected to one another.

2. We are all different from one another.

3. We are called to care for and respect one another.

4. The past, present, and future influence and shape our lives.

5. We are called to live in ways that are life-giving to others and ourselves.

6. We are called to be humble and aware of our limitations.

7. We all have needs that require attention.

8. We are called to 'do no harm' to others and ourselves.

9. We all want to feel included in working through our own problems.

10. We are responsible for our actions that harm others.

(adapted from "A Shared Just Peace Ethic: Uncovering Restorative Values," Mediation and Facilitation Training Manual, 5th Edition (Akron, PA: MCC US Office on Justice and Peacemaking), pp 85-87.)


1. "Crime", or wrongdoing, is a violation of people and interpersonal relationships.

2. Violations create obligations.

3. The central obligation is to put right the wrongs, i.e., to repair the harms caused

    by wrongdoing.

From Howard Zehr's The Little Book of Restorative Justice (Good Books 2015)


1. Who has been harmed?

2. What are their needs?

3. Whose obligations are these?

4. Who has a stake in the situation?

5. What are the causes?

6. What is the appropriate process to involve stakeholders in an effort to put things right and address underlying causes?

From Howard Zehr's The Little Book of Restorative Justice (Good Books 2015)

For more info on RJ visit our Resources page.
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