Restorative justice is seen as a broad approach to problem solving that involves the victim, the offender, their social networks, justice agencies and the community in repairing the harm caused by crime.
The active participation of the parties is a core element of the process that emphasizes relationship building, reconciliation and the development of agreements around a desired outcome between victims and offender.
Restorative justice approaches are also seen as means to promote the peaceful expression of conflict, encourage tolerance and inclusiveness, build respect for diversity and boost responsible community practices.
Restorative justice programmes cross fields as diverse as justice (policing, corrections, juvenile justice), schools, workplaces, organizations, faith groups, family and community.
In the justice field, restorative justice practices can be used to reduce the burden on the criminal justice system, to divert cases out of the system and to provide the system with a range of constructive sanctions. Restorative justice programmes include victim offender mediation programmes, community and family group conferencing, circle sentencing and reparative probation.
Restorative justice programmes complement the existing criminal justice system. There are four main points within the criminal justice system at which a restorative justice process can be successfully initiated:
- at the police level (pre-charge);
- prosecution level (post-charge but usually before a trial),
- at the court level (either at the pre-trial or sentencing stages); and,
- corrections (as an alternative to incarceration, as part of or in addition to, a non-custodial sentence, during incarceration, or upon release from prison).
At IPS, we support the development and implementation of restorative justice programmes at any of these stages.