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Restorative Justice

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PFI programs are based on the theory of restorative justice. With the goal of healing broken relationships, the programs work to repair the damage done by crime and restore the offender to a meaningful role in society.

Restorative justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused or revealed by criminal behavior. It is best accomplished through cooperative process that include all stakeholders. Practices and programs reflecting restorative purposes will respond to crime by:

  • identifying and taking steps to repair harm,
  • involving all stakeholders, and
  • transforming the traditional relationship between communities and their governments in responding to crime.

The effectiveness achieved through our restorative justice programmes can be attributed to three important principles that form the foundation for restorative justice:

  • Justice requires that we work to restore those who have been injured.
  • Those most directly involved and affected by crime should have the opportunity to participate fully in the response if they wish.
  • Government's role is to preserve a just public order, and the community's is to build and maintain a just peace.

Some of the programmes and outcomes typically identified with restorative justice include:

reconciliationVictim-Offender Mediation

VOMs involve a meeting between the victim and offender facilitated by a trained mediator. With the assistance of the mediator, the victim and offender begin to resolve the conflict and to construct their own approach to achieving justice in the face of thier particular crime (Van Ness and Strong, 1997 at 69)


Conferencing programmes are similar to victim-offender reconciliation/mediation programmes, in that they involve the victim and offender in an extended conversation about the crime and its consequences. However, Conferencing programmes also include the participation of families, community support groups, police, social welfare officials and attorneys in addition to the victim and offender (Stewart, 1996 at 66-73)


As with the restorative processes of mediation and conferencing, circles provide a space for encounter between the victim and the offender, but it moves beyond that to involve the community in the decision making process. Depending on the model being used, the community participants may range from justice system personnel to anyone in the community concerned about the crime. Everyone present, the victim, victim's family, the offender, offender's family, and community representatives are given a voice in the proceedings. Participants typically speak as they pass a "talking peace" around the circle (Coates et. al. 2000: 6; Bazemore and Umbreit 2001:6)

Victim Assistance

Victim assistance programmes provide services to victims as they recover from the crime and proceed through the criminal justice process. Attempts to meet victims' needs have been forged on two fronts: victims' rights advocates lobby for and assert the rights of victims to have a primary role in the administration of justice (Karmen, 1992), while community support groups attempt to address the personal crises that may follow from victimization (Van Ness and Strong, 1997 at over 110).

Ex-Offender Assistance

Two examples of prisoner assistance programmes are the Alternatives to Violence project (AVP) and the Detroit Transition of Prisoners (TOP). The AVP consists of workshops which focus on building community and trust while developing communication and conflict-resolution skills in prisoners (Rucker, 1991 at 173). TOP consists of a church-based, non-residential aftercare programme providing accountability for ex-prisoners.


Restitution proactively involves the victim and offender in repariing the harm done to the victim (Weitekamp, 1992 at 82). Unlike retributive responses to crime, restitution has the potential to repair the financial and perhaps relational harms that crime has left in its aftermath (Baker, 1994 at 71-73). Restitution may be preferable because instead of simply increasing the total amount of harm suffered by interested parties, restitution aims at repairing the victim, and making the offender a productive person (Evarts, 1990 at 16-20).

Community Service

The typical order of community service requires the offender to perform between and fifty and two hundred hours of work. Since the offender will be working with a public business, careful screening takes place to assure the public's safety. For the most part, non-violent offenders are chosen for the programme.

Restorative programes are characterized by four key values:

  • Encounter: Create opportunities for victims, offenders and community members who want to do so to meet to discuss the crime and its aftermath
  • Amends: Expect offenders to take steps to repair the harm they have caused
  • Reintegration: Seek to restore victims and offenders to whole, contributing members of society
  • Inclusion: Provide opportunities for parties with a stake in a specific crime to participate in its resolution

To learn more about restorative justice, click here.

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