Restorative justice is a worldwide criminal justice reform movement that focuses on the harm crime causes. Restorative programmes emphasize the value of the people harmed by the crime meeting with those who caused the harm to talk about what happened and how to make things right. Sometimes the process has a transforming effect on their lives.
Prison Fellowship International has been a strong proponent of restorative justice, largely through activities of the Centre for Justice and Reconciliation (CJR). It has done this for several reasons:
It lessens problems that threaten to overwhelm the criminal justice system, such as prison and court overload.
It opens up a new and useful role for victims in the official justice system.
It confronts offenders with the harm to real people that their crimes cause, while offering them a way to actively take responsibility.
It reduces reoffending, reduces criminal justice costs, increases the number of cases brought to justice, helps victims recover from the trauma of crime, and leaves victims and offenders more satisfied that justice was done.
A very comprehensive resource on restorative justice is CJR's website on the topic, http://www.restorativejustice.org which has a large amount of information on everything from police use of restorative justice to restorative justice and peace commissions.
In addition, the Briefing Paper: What Is Restorative Justice? provides an excellent overview of this approach to justice, its hallmark programmes and ways that it is being incorporated into conventional criminal justice systems. It's Time for Restorative Justice is a brief explanation prepared for Christian audiences by Chuck Colson and Dan Van Ness.
This section begins with an introduction to the topic. It then reviews ways in which restorative justice is used to divert cases from the criminal justice system as well as how it is used in prisons. Because the needs of victims receive greater emphasis in a restorative perspective, there is information on how churches can help crime victims.