Restorative justice calls for victims to be central to justice. Restorative justice programs appear to have significant potential for addressing victim concerns and needs. Restorative justice offers a hopeful vision of justice for victims, but good intentions and wonderful ideas are not enough. Substantial challenges must be met if this vision is to prove a reality rather than a mirage. Restorative justice suggests that we need to change our lenses requiring us to change our questions.
Justice requires that we start with victims:
- What happened?
- Who has been hurt?
- What do they need?
- Whose obligations and responsibilities are these?
- Focuses on the harm.
- Wrongs or harms result in obligations (accountability vs. punishment).
- Promotes engagement and participation in putting things right:
- Address harms
- Address causes
- Restorative Justice balances concerns for all
- Primarily about forgiveness and reconciliation
- Primarily designed to reduce recidivism or repeat offenses
- A program or a blueprint
- Primarily intended for comparatively minor offenses or first-time offenders
- New, nor was it developed in North America (native people of North America and New Zealand)
- The panacea or necessarily a replacement for the legal system
- Necessarily a replacement for prison
“Only when we allow such questions to frame our quest for justice will victims attain the place they deserve.” ~Howard Zehr