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Restorative Justice

There exists a multiplicity of definitions of the concept of Restorative Justice (RJ). Some conceive it as a set of principles or theories, certain programs or practices, or a specific methodology. Despite the fact that there is no consensual definition, we propose that RJ is a philosophy rather than a certain practice or program.
One such broad definition of RJ as a philosophy is offered by Sharpe (1998, p.7):

RJ is a type of justice that puts its energy into the future, not into what is past. It focuses on what needs to be healed, what needs to be repaid, what needs to be learned in the wake of a crime. It looks at what needs to be strengthened if such things are not to happen again.”

Therefore, justice should strive toward:

  • Inviting full participation and consensus
  • Seeking full and direct accountability
  • Reuniting what has been divided
  • Strengthening the community to prevent further harms (Sharpe, 1998, p.7)

Likewise, Bazemore (2007, p.656) states that “although it is often viewed mistakenly as a program or practice model, restorative justice is most accurately understood as a holistic framework for criminal justice reform, and even more broadly as an overarching approach to informal conflict resolution and healing”.

Zehr (2004, p.268) offers an even broader view by declaring that RJ “is a kind of coherent value system that gives us a vision of the good, how we want to be together … they are the values that seem to have some universality”.