What is restorative justice?
What is restorative justice? See a recent video of Martha McLafferty, who describes what is meant by “restorative justice” and what the Hartford Community Restorative Justice Center does.  River Valley Chronicle with Martha McLafferty presented by High Horses


Restorative justice is an approach to crime, which views crime as a violation of relationships and people. “Restorative justice is a collaborative, inclusive process that aims to build understanding, encourage accountability, and provide an opportunity for healing. We believe this approach can improve the well-being of communities by restoring peace and reducing the likelihood of repeated conflict and crime.” (From Community Justice Network of Vermont: http://cjnvt.org)


The three basic principles of restorative justice:

  • Engagement: involves those impacted, including the community, in the resolution.
  • Responsibility: encourages appropriate responsibility for addressing needs and repairing the harm (accountability).
  • Restoration: acknowledges and repairs the harm caused by, and revealed by, wrongdoing.

 (From Jon Kidde, excerpted and adapted from http://emu.edu/now/restorative-justice/)

Restorative justice focuses on three basic questions:

  1. Who has been hurt?
  2. What are their needs?
  3. Whose obligations are these?

In contrast, traditional criminal justice focuses on three other questions:

  1. What laws have been broken?
  2. Who did it?
  3. What do they deserve?                          

(From the Little Book of Restorative Justice by Howard Zehr. NY: Good Books, 2015.)

Signposts of restorative justice:

  1. Focus on the harms of wrongdoing rather than the rules that have been broken.
  2. Show equal concern and commitment to those victimized and those who have offended, involving both in the process of justice.
  3. Work toward the restoration of those harmed, empowering them and responding to their needs as they see them.
  4. Support those who have offended, while encouraging them to understand, accept, and carry out their obligations.
  5. Recognize that while obligations may be difficult for those who have offended, those obligations should not be intended as harms, and they must be achievable.
  6. Provide opportunities for dialogue, direct or indirect, between those harmed and those who have harmed, as desired by both parties.
  7. Find meaningful ways to involve the community and to respond to the community bases of crime.
  8. Encourage collaboration and reintegration of both those who are harmed and those who harmed, rather than relying upon coercion and isolation.
  9. Give attention to the unintended consequences of actions and programs.
  10. Show respect to all parties—those harmed, those who have harmed, their friends and loved ones, and justice colleagues.

(From the Little Book of Restorative Justice by Howard Zehr. NY: Good Books, 2015.)

In summary, restorative justice programs aim to:

  • Put key decisions into the hands of those most affected by crime.
  • Make justice more healing and, ideally, more transformative.
  • Reduce the likelihood of future offenses.

(From Restorative Justice: a Vision for Healing and Change by Susan Sharpe. Edmonton: Edmonton Victim Offender Mediation Society, 1998.)

According to Vermont Title 28, Section 2A: “It is the policy of this state that principles of restorative justice be included in shaping how the criminal justice system responds to persons charged with, or convicted of, criminal offenses… The policy goal is a community response to a person’s wrongdoing at its earliest onset, and a type and intensity of sanction tailored to each instance of wrongdoing.”