What Is Restorative Justice?

In America as we know it, our criminal justice system is defined by hard-line policies that have only resulted in high rates of recidivism, a focus on punitive action rather than attending to the harm experienced by crime victims, and related costs spiraling out of control.

We can do better. As a society, we need to find a way to address issues created by crime and social injustice. It’s a forward-looking approach that begins with who has been hurt and what their needs may be and places a focus on giving perpetrators a venue to make good on their actions instead of a lifetime of hardship. Seems fairly reasonable, right?

We can do better. As a society, we need to find a way to address issues created by crime and social injustice.

Enter restorative justice, a fast-growing state, national, and international social movement and set of practices that aim to redirect society’s current retributive response to crime. Under this paradigm, crime is not a depersonalized breaking of the law, but a wrong against another person. It zeroes-in on the dynamics between three players: the offender, the victim, and the community.

To that end, restorative justice seeks to elevate the role of crime victims and community members while holding offenders directly accountable to the people they have harmed. The hope is that they can restore, to the greatest extent possible, the emotional and material losses of victims employing dialogue, negotiation and problem solving. What’s more, it views criminal acts as more than the sum of their parts, because it recognizes how offenders harm victims, communities, and even themselves by their actions. In other words, it’s a big-picture approach.

Restorative justice seeks to elevate the role of crime victims and community members while holding offenders directly accountable to the people they have harmed.

Perhaps most importantly, restorative justice is rooted in healing. If survivors of crimes experience emotional and material restitution, they can begin to move on. The idea is that by seeking to make the victim or victims whole, the offender can gain closure and start to become reintegrated back into his or her social and familial networks. And through that process, community harmony has a chance to be restored. This type of healing affords all stakeholders the opportunity to take an active part in the justice process instead of the traditionally passive role associated with the status quo.

[Monalisa Johnson is a licensed and ordained minister of the gospel and a certified life coach as well as a mother and entrepreneur. In no way is anything that she writes, speaks or shares considered medical advice or clinical therapy. Consider all that you receive to be life coaching and guidance.]

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