Working Definitions of Restorative Justice

This page is archived material and is no longer updated. It may contain outdated information and broken links. The material presented on these pages is the product of five regional symposia held on restorative justice between June 1997 and January 1998.

Restorative justice is a philosophical framework which has been proposed as an alternative to the current way of thinking about crime and criminal justice. RJ emphasizes the ways in which crime harms relationships in the context of community. (Minnesota Dept. of Corrections)

Restorative justice gives priority to repairing the harm done to victims and communities, and offender accountability is defined in terms of assuming responsibility and taking action to repair harm. (Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Judges Commission)

Restorative justice emphasizes the importance of elevating the role of crime victims and community members through more active involvement in the justice process, holding offenders directly accountable to the people and communities they have violated, restoring the emotional and material losses of victims, and providing a range of opportunities for dialogue, negotiation, and problem solving, whenever possible, which can lead to a greater sense of community safety, social harmony, and peace for all involved. (Mark Umbreit, U. of Minnesota)

Authentic restorative justice is a continuum that includes underlying principles, basic tenets, general public policies, and specific practices, programs and procedures. It is a sound, comprehensive understanding of the relationships affected by crime that recognized that the criminal justice system must focus on the full circle of injuries, needs and responsibilities of crime victims, offenders, the community, and the government. (Restorative Justice Institute)

"The concept of restorative justice is..a new paradigm for doing justice that starts at the grassroots with ordinary members of the community as well as victims and offenders.inclusive of all whose lives are affected by wrongdoing." (Ottawa, Ontario Church Council on Justice and Corrections)

Restorative justice: apology and forgiveness, including participation in culture based cleansing ceremonies, traditional counseling and advisement, etc. (Ada Melton, author and development consultant in Navajo country)

.. A way of dealing with victims and offenders by focusing on the settlement of conflicts arising from crime and resolving the underlying problems which cause it. It is also, more widely, a way of dealing with crime generally in rational problem solving way. Central to RJ is the recognition of the community, rather than criminal justice agencies, as the prime site of crime control.. (Tony Marshall, author and researcher from Great Britain)

restorative justice; noun, an alternative concept in corrections according to which only violent career criminals would be imprisoned, while non-violent offenders would work in closely monitored community projects, earning money with which to make financial restitution to their victims and their victims' families, to repay court and corrections costs, and to support their own families: "With RJ, we hold offenders accountable and make the victim the center of the criminal justice process" - Joe Lehman, Maine's corrections commissioner - (as cited in Atlantic Monthly)

Restorative Justice: noun referring (in the aggregate) to justice processes that create or restore equity; that "make things right". (John Wilmerding, cyberspace listserv coordinator)

Date Created: December 3, 2007