What is Restorative Practice?

In the late eighties various countries in the western world started to use what was then referred to as restorative justice to deal with young offenders and delinquents. Police agencies were often the first to promote and use restorative justice as experience showed that the justice system for young offenders was generally time consuming and non productive in terms of out comes. Victims of crime were also dissatisfied.

Since then the use of restorative practices has grown and developed as academics studied and reported on its use, effects and benefits. It is now used in various forms by courts, police, education, corrections, peace making, work places and welfare. One of the most often reported fact is victim satisfaction which is not always because of reparation but because “they were heard”.

The most acceptable definition offered was from Tony Marshall: “Restorative justice is a process whereby all the parties with a stake in a particular offence come together to resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of the offence and its implications for the future” .(1)

Braithwaite argues that this definition does not define the core values of restorative justice which he writes are “about healing rather than hurting, moral learning, community participation and community caring, respectful dialogue, forgiveness, responsibility, apology and making amends “.(2)

Wachtel and McCold have also suggested six principles of restorative practice,

  1. Foster awareness;
  2. Avoid scolding or lecturing;
  3. Involve offenders actively;
  4. Accept ambiguity;
  5. Separate deed from the doer;
  6. See every instance of wrong – doing and conflict as an opportunity for learning.(3)

(1) Braithwaite J. 2002, Restorative Justice and Responsive Regulation, Oxford University Press
(2) Braithwaite J. 2002, Restorative Justice and Responsive Regulation, Oxford University Press
(3) 2001, Restorative Justice and Civil Society, Cambridge University Press