Restorative Practices

Our usual criminal justice system focuses on justice by the state evaluating the offender and the offense and then handing out punishment in some form of sentence.

This leaves victims’ needs unaddressed other than to the degree that the offender is punished. The victim usually is unsatisfied, and the offender is punished but given no opportunity to repair the harm done, which would be his obligation. The greater societal responsibility for the causes of the crime are not looked at.

The aim of restorative systems is to make right the entire situation. This form of justice repairs the damaged relationships and the causes of the crime. This is usually done by a structured meeting between the victim and offender and their relevant family and friends and the affected community. The conference or circle would be done in a structured and safe manner, reviewing the harm done and the obligations arising out of that harm for the offender and the society at large and how this might be best repaired. This humanizes the situation and allows everyone to be heard and addresses everyone’s need to restore right relations and to create and maintain community connections.

On an interpersonal level, this can be done by practicing nonviolent communication, and where that is not sufficient, then an NVC mediation can be done with a facilitator. When the issue is larger or more difficult to resolve in that way, then a true restorative conference or circle can be convened.

Our punitive justice system would only be used in this model when these other mechanisms fail, and restorative solutions can still be used for reintegration of individuals after serving a sentence so that they come back to the community consciously.  Relationships and connections are restored to increase safety and decrease fear, and to embrace our humanity in supporting each other whenever possible.

This work is being used in schools, and we are leading an effort to have this in our schools in Hawaii. This can also be part of our justice system, and is the main principle of the justice system in New Zealand.

The restorative systems respect and embrace the indigenous peoples of the lands and have grown from some of the principles in these ancient and time-tested justice systems.