What is Restorative Justice and what are Restorative Practices?
Restorative justice and restorative practices are related and overlapping approaches to dealing with social harm and promoting well-being. Both use facilitated, structured processes to help a group of people address social harm and reset relations:
The foundational principles of a restorative approach are to: cause no further harm; work with those involved, and set relations right.
The criminal justice system most commonly delivers restorative justice with a version of the group conference process that is designed to deal with cases of undisputed harm. Group conferencing can be used in programs that:
- divert cases from court, or
- support sentencing in court, or
- support healing after court – during or after a custodial sentence.
Restorative practices are typically used in a community–of-common-concern.
A restorative process, such as the group conference, can be provided within communities of people who share a common concern. These communities include:
- educational institutions – such as a school or university;
- workplaces – whether corporate, government or community sector;
- residential communities – where people simply reside in the same area/region, or are co-located for a particular reason, such as that they are boarding, in out-of-home-care, or detained;
- families – including nuclear and extended family and significant others.
These communities may use the version of group conferencing designed to deal with cases of undisputed harm. However, they more commonly use versions of conferencing designed to deal with:
- the legacy of a sequence of poorly resolved incidents, &/or
- some issue of common concern, &/or
- a legacy of betrayal trauma.
In addition to using these large group processes, restorative practices can involve smaller meetings between just two parties, and a range of other communication techniques that are part of a broader system of relationship management.
Again, the foundational principles common across effective restorative programs are:
- Cause no further harm;
- Work with those involved;
- Set relations right.
Community members can apply restorative principles and practices to improve the ways in which they build, maintain, strengthen, and repair [or “reset”] relationships – as core business of being-in-community.