Philosophy of Restorative Justice

Since its inception, the Bridge Program has operated under the principles of Restorative Justice. This has been defined in an article by Rev. Rod Carter, Chaplain in Corrections Canada, as

Restorative Justice is addressing the hurts and needs of the victims and the hurts and needs of the offenders in such a way that they and the community are healed.” (1.)

Howard Zehr in ‘The Little Book of Restorative Justice” states:

Restorative Justice requires, at minimum, that we address victims’ harms and needs, hold offenders accountable to put right those harms, and involves victims, offenders, and communities in the process.” (2.)

The difference in the present justice system and the philosophy of Restorative Justice are shown in the following questions:

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

What laws have been broken?
Who did it?
What do they deserve?

RESTORATIVE JUSTICE

Who has been hurt?
What are their needs?
Whose obligations are these? (3.)

Most legal cases are decided on the strict rule of law. Restorative Justice requires instead a decision based on what is fair and just, given the circumstances. It is a process in which all parties come together to share and resolve issues through the values of healing, participation, truth-telling, mutual care, reconciliation, and peacemaking. Restorative Justice will not replace the present retributive and rehabilitative justice systems, but could affect both the victims and offenders to help them transform their lives.

The principles of Restorative Justice should pervade all interactions among the Bridge Board of Directors, staff and clients. This means that “opportunities for exchange of information, participation, dialogue, and mutual consent” (4.) should be the basis of these interactions.

There are many more articles on Restorative Justice in the files of The Bridge under the title of the same name.

  • Carter, Rod, quoted in the United Church Observer
  • Zehr, Howard, The Little Book of Restorative Justice (Intercourse, PA.Good Books,2002), p. 25
  • ibid. p. 21
  • ibid, p. 67

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