Restorative Justice

Restorative justice is the nonviolent replacement for the present model of retributive justice, whose aim is punishment. Restorative justice aims to transform the harm done by a crime, which is considered a breach of relationships, into restored relationships among all parties.  The restorative justice model is based on the notion that crime harms not only the immediate victim(s) but the perpetrator(s) as well, and in addition is a breach of justice against an entire community. So, sometimes the entire community is invited to partake in the process of restoring relationships.  This turns the criminal justice process into a step toward positive peace, healing the harm caused and moving forward into a new consciousness and away from punishment.

In the restorative justice model, which often draws upon indigenous systems of justice from around the world, there is an attempt to heal ruptured relationships, or even create relationships where they did not exist before the offense was committed. To this end, the offended parties are empowered to meet face to face with the offending parties when possible, usually in the presence of a mediator. The belief is that these encounters serve to transform the resentment, bitterness, anger, and hatred that are roused by the offense. Summing up the difference between the two models of criminal justice, Bo Lozoff, a prominent activist in the field, has stated that while our present system says to an offender, “Hey get out of here!” A restorative justice system would say, “Hey, get back in here!”

Restorative justice rests on a belief in the potential for all humans to experience personal transformation, and is therefore a theory of justice compatible with the system of principled nonviolence.  At present active interest in restorative justice among scholars, and a number of Nongovernmental Organizations like Alternatives to Violence Program (AVP) and The Victim-Offender Reconciliation Project (VORP), along with a growing use of vipasanna meditation in prisons is slowly moving the idea forward.