Leaders and decision-makers in many settings are faced with the challenge of how to respond when people break rules and harm relationships. Restorative justice is an approach that can address violations while beginning the process of mending relationships.
What is the most effective response when a student damages school property? When an employee uses discriminatory or aggressive language towards a colleague? When a community member is robbed? When a hospital patient, client or prisoner violates organizational safety? The way we as leaders answer such questions not only dictates the values we uphold as an organization, but can serve to define our leadership.
Inevitably, dealing with these types of situations brings an element of fear. We feel the pressure of needing to send a strong message of denunciation and address the ripples of indignation that naturally arise in such situations. We may even sense that how we respond could have an impact on our reputation as a leader.
In the stress of these moments, the fear centres in our brain can dictate a response based on unexamined assumptions, survival instinct, and old habits. Even in calmer moments, we may find ourselves equipped with few effective tools aside from the deeply encoded instinct for punishment. The complex needs and emotions involved in the incident become narrowed to three simplistic questions: What rules were broken? Who did it? What do they deserve? Restorative justice, by contrast, takes into account both accountability and restoration.
If punishment – the deliberate infliction of pain – were sufficient to deter people from committing harm and violence, the world around us would be a different place. In the United States, for example, where an unprecedented 7 in 1,000 people currently live behind bars, the murder rate is by far the highest in the industrialized world. Studies have found that in the aftermath of capital punishment – perhaps the ultimate form of retribution – murder rates actually go up. Perhaps as restorative justice pioneer Howard Zehr suggests, “The message some potential offenders receive is not that killing is wrong, but that those who wrong us deserve to die” (in Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime and Justice, 2005, pg. 77).
Restorative Justice Video Explanation
What are the main Principles of Restorative Justice in South Africa
Here is an explanation of the main principles behind Restorative Justice. Restorative justice views crime as more than breaking the law – it also causes harm to people, relationships, and the community. So a just response must address those harms as well as the wrongdoing. If the parties are willing, the best way to do this is to help them meet to discuss those harms and how to about bring resolution. Other approaches are available if they are unable or unwilling to meet. Sometimes those meetings lead to transformational changes in their lives.
Notice three big ideas: (1) repair: crime causes harm and justice requires repairing that harm; (2) encounter: the best way to determine how to do that is to have the parties decide together; and (3) transformation: this can cause fundamental changes in people, relationships and communities.
A more formal definition is this: Restorative Justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior. It is best accomplished through cooperative processes that allow all willing stakeholders to meet, although other approaches are available when that is impossible. This can lead to transformation of people, relationships and communities.
The foundational principles of restorative justice have been summarized as follows:
- Crime causes harm and justice should focus on repairing that harm.
- The people most affected by the crime should be able to participate in its resolution.
- The responsibility of the government is to maintain order and of the community to build peace.
If restorative justice were a building, it would have four cornerposts:
- Inclusion of all parties
- Encountering the other side
- Making amends for the harm
- Reintegration of the parties into their communities
To review: restorative justice…
- is a different way of thinking about crime and our response to crime
- focuses on repairing the harm caused by crime and reducing future harm through crime prevention
- requires offenders to take responsibility for their actions and for the harm they have caused
- seeks redress for victims, recompense by offenders and reintegration of both within the community
- requires a cooperative effort by communities and the government