Problem-solving for the future is seen as more important than establishing blame for past behavior. Instead of ignoring victims and placing offenders in a passive role, restorative justice principles place both the victim and the offender in active and interpersonal problem-solving roles...

Restorative justice is dramatically different from the current mainstream approach to crime. Its outcomes bear little resemblance to incarceration and other forms of punishment. Its outlook is positive and future-oriented. Restorative justice offers a process that encourages the parties to search for healing and constructive solutions. Because of its attention to the needs of victims and offenders, and its focus on solutions that heal and restore a sense of wholeness, the restorative approach can bring both victim and offender to feel safe enough to begin exploring the difficult issues of compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation.

In the context of crime, needs cannot be discussed without also addressing responsibility. Violations create obligations. Of course the primary obligation is for the offender to make things right. This is what justice is about. The offender has an obligation to acknowledge and assume responsibility, make reparation (to the extent possible), and apologize. There are needs that the victim, the offender, and the community may have as a result of the crime, which are beyond the means of any individual to make right. Meeting these needs is the community’s responsibility.

For justice to be healing it must begin by identifying the human needs created by crime. The victim’s needs are most important, and of those the most pressing are usually the needs for support and safety. Victims also need someone to listen to them, they need to tell their story and vent their feelings, and they need others to suffer with them. Victims need to know that what happened to them was wrong, and that something has been done to correct the wrong. They need to have their pain acknowledged and their experience validated by others.

The needs of the offender must also be addressed. Very often there are past injuries in the offender’s life that contribute to crime (physical or sexual abuse as a child, substance abuse or addiction, etc.), and there may be physical, emotional, or moral and spiritual injuries suffered as a result of the crime. Any attempt to bring healing to the parties touched by crime must address the needs created by these injuries. The offender’s needs may include specific treatment, emotional support, learning interpersonal skills, developing a healthy self-image, and help with dealing with guilt.

In its efforts to promote the use of restorative approaches, Deep Humanity Institute offers:

Organizations we have worked with include:
  • Kaslo Restorative Justice Committee (Kaslo BC)
  • American Friends Service Committee (New England Region)
  • Lillooet Learning Communities Society (Lillooet BC)
  • Correctional Service Canada
  • Quaker Peace Centre (Cape Town, South Africa)
  • Mission Restorative Justice Coalition (Mission BC)
  • BC Association for Community Living (Vancouver BC)

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