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For some time now there has been growing dissatisfaction with the justice system. Citizens feel disconnected, victims are dissatisfied, and those working in the system are frustrated. Policymakers are increasingly concerned about the burgeoning cost of justice in the face of this discontent and the high rates of recidivism that exist.
Over the past decades, there has been growing interest in new approaches to justice, which involve the community and focus on the victim.
The current system, in which crime is considered an act against the State, works on a premise that largely ignores the victim and the community that is hurt most by crime. Instead, it focuses on punishing offenders without forcing them to face the impact of their crimes.
Restorative justice principles offer more inclusive processes and reorient the goals of justice. Restorative justice has been finding a receptive audience, as it creates common ground which accommodates the goals of many constituencies and provides a collective focus. The guiding principles of restorative justice are: 
- Crime is an offense against human relationships.
- Victims and the community are central to justice processes.
- The first priority of justice processes is to assist victims.
- The second priority is to restore the community, to the degree possible.
- The offender has personal responsibility to victims and to the community for crimes committed.
- Stakeholders share responsibilities for restorative justice through partnerships for action.
- The offender will develop improved competency and understanding as a result of the restorative justice experience.
Created for the National Institute of Corrections Nationwide Videoconference held December 12, 1996.
The content on this page is taken from materials collected in 1997 for national symposia on restorative justice. While more up-to-date resources on restorative justice are available, NIJ believes that this material still is useful to the discussion and exploration of restorative justice.