Restorative Justice (RJ) is a branch of community mediation that involves facilitated conversations between the victims and perpetrators of crime. Within the criminal justice system, the process that takes place is termed a Restorative Justice Conference.
Victims of crime benefit from the opportunity to be heard by the perpetrator, to explain the human cost they have experienced and to hold a facilitated conversation that helps to reduce feelings of anger, fear or anxiety and bring closure for them at a personal level.
They are able to:
- Explain to offenders the impact of their crime on themselves and others (e.g. family)
- Ask and receive answers to questions
- Receive an apology
- Have a say in the resolution of offences, including agreeing rehabilitative or reparative activity for the offender
Perpetrators of crime are helped to understand and face the human impact of what they have done, take responsibility, and help repair the harm that has been caused. In this way, RJ has the potential to help rehabilitate offenders by breaking destructive patterns of behaviour. Research as indicated that re-offending rates (particularly for young offenders) are reduced significantly for those who participate in a Restorative Justice Conferences compared with those who receive other community sentences.
The concept of bringing people who have been harmed either by crime or by conflict into communication with those responsible for its debilitating effects is part of a wider concept called restorative practice.
Restorative practice can be used by mediators to prevent conflict, build relationships and repair harm by enabling people to communicate more effectively and positively. Restorative practice methods are increasingly being used by mediators in schools, children’s services, workplaces, hospitals, and residential communities.
Restorative practice enables people to recognise that all of their activities affect others and that people are responsible for their actions and can be held accountable for them. It enables people to examine how they interact with each other and consider how best to prevent harmful outcomes arising from conflict, anti-social behaviour or crime.
All restorative justice practitioners are required to undergo specialist training. A significant proportion of mediators involved in restorative justice also work as community mediators.