The traditional justice system focuses on three questions:
- What law was broken?
- Who broke it?
- How should they be punished?
In contrast, restorative justice asks:
- Who has been harmed?
- What are their needs?
- Whose obligation is it to meet those needs?
Restorative Justice: An Alternative Approach to Traditional Prosecution
Restorative justice offers an essential, alternative approach to traditional prosecution. Put most simply, it is “a process to involve, to the extent possible, those who have a stake in a specific offense and to collectively identify and address harms, needs, and obligations, in order to heal and put things as right as possible."
Unlike the traditional justice system, in which victims are faced with drawn-out cases and results that often bear little connection to the harm caused, restorative justice offers an opportunity to hold individuals accountable for their actions in a manner that actually “makes it right” for those they have impacted – from the direct victim of their act to themselves, their families, and their communities.
Restorative practices are not “one size fits all” – they exist along a continuum, depending on the centrality of the victim’s role and the structure of dialogue and decisionmaking. Some of the most common restorative models include peacemaking circles, victim-offender dialogue, and restorative community conferencing, such as the Make it Right initiative. Other models, like the Neighborhood Courts program, draw on restorative principles, but may not include direct victim-offender contact.
For more information on the office’s restorative-based models, click on the links below: