Yesterday I went to a conference on Restorative Justice sponsored by the Finger Lakes Restorative Justice Center and Roberts Wesleyan College at Roberts in North Chili, NY. The key note speaker was Mark Umbreit a leader in restorative justice nationally and internationally. It was an inspiring conference which gave me the opportunity to meet people from around Western New York who are interested in restorative justice practices and programs.
Restorative Justice seeks to help individuals who have been harmed, individuals causing the harm, and community members affected by harmful incidents. Restorative justice also seeks to help organizations, institutions, and communities find peaceful and healthy ways to handle and forestall dispute and conflict.
Instead of justice being a matter between "The State" and the perpetrator, restorative justice seeks to put the victim at the center of the process not in a peripheral or marginalized role. The victim is a generic term which refers not only to an individual, but to that person's family, neighborhood, community, and even broader society.
Having put the victim in the center of the process, the key question is what needs to be done to repair the harm that the offender caused, and how can that repair plan best be developed and implemented?
Restorative justice seeks not just to protect the community from further harm although this continues to be an important goal, but to transform the spirits of the victim, the offender, witnesses and other stakeholders so that the emotional satisfaction of justice can occur.
Restorative justice practices and activities are spreading and growing nationally and around the world because victims are demanding it. The traditional entrenched criminal justice system, at times feeling threatened, may attempt to block the growth of restorative justice, but it is a better way of doing criminal justice business and it brings a more satisfying sense of peace.
Link: Finger Lakes Restorative Justice Center.