What is Restorative Justice?
Restorative justice is a way of thinking about and responding to crime as a violation of people and relationships in addition to law-breaking. It is a philosophy, or a set of principles, that is used around the world in a variety of different contexts. The United Nations Working Group on Restorative Justice defines it in the following way: a process whereby parties with a stake in a particular offence resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of the offence and its implications for the future. In essence, we seek to repair the harms caused by crime and violence.
At Restorative Justice Victoria (RJV), we employ processes based on restorative justice philosophy. We use a victim-centred approach, which means resolving the harms the victim suffered informs everything we do. In order for this process to work, the offender must take responsibility for their role in the crime at the outset of the process.
We use a variety of processes and models with the goal of providing a tailored and appropriate response to each case that will best support and meet the needs of participants, with special consideration given to the needs and wishes of the victim.
In general, there are four stages to our processes:
- Intake and assessment: Once the case is referred to us, it’s assessed for appropriateness. This entails the case manager reaching out to the offender, victim, and others where relevant, to explore the option of restorative justice and determine if it’s a good fit. A team of caseworkers is then assigned.
- Preparation: During this stage, the participants work with the caseworkers to prepare for a dialogue that the offender will attend to formally discuss their offence and the harms they have caused others. The victim is invited to attend this dialogue but may choose not to, or may decide to participate in another way, for example by letter writing back and forth, video sharing, sending a representative, and other creative options and accommodations that we develop collaboratively with the victim.
- Dialogue: This is a meeting that the offender participates in, along with others affected by the crime who want to be present, to discuss the offence, the harms caused by it, and what contributed to the offender’s behaviour to prevent it from reoccurring. At the end of the dialogue an agreement is developed through consensus regarding how the offender can best address both the harms resulting from and the causes of the offence.
- Agreement follow-through: During this stage, the offender completes the terms of their agreement, and victims and the referring agency are kept updated on their progress.
Our processes are designed around the concepts of safety, dignity, belonging, respect, and connection. To read about the transformative and healing experiences past clients have had at RJV, see our Testimonials page.