Eileen Henderson, Restorative Justice Co-Ordinator of the Mennonite Central Committee of Ontario, gave generously of her time in helping me to understand the work of Restorative Justice. According to her, it is a way of looking at crime and brokenness in our communities that asks 3 questions:
1) Who has been hurt
2) What are their needs
3) Who is responsible to begin to make things as right as possible.
These are not simple questions, and the answers and solutions are not always easy or quick.
Unlike our criminal justice system which is driven by what laws have been broken, who will be charged and what punishment will be handed out, restorative justice is driven by what relationships have been broken and the needs of all those who have been impacted by the action that has occurred. This includes not only the offender and the direct victim, but also includes other members of the community, including family and friends who may have been impacted in some way. Restorative Justice asks that harms be acknowledged, damages repaired, dignity established and offers hope of integration for all those who have experienced harm and alienation.
Restorative justice is not a replacement of our justice system, although restorative approaches have been used as part of our criminal justice process.
Restorative Justice is not about forgiveness, although that may occur.
Restorative justice is about addressing needs and working along side individuals and communities so that they are not isolated and alone.
Restorative justice is about offender accountability and asks that the individual who has committed the crime begin to repair the harm that has been done. We know that there are many instances where the repairing of harm on an even basis can not be done. When a life is taken, or innocence is destroyed, there is never an equal repayment. However, there are other ways that can be initiated that will enable a person to begin to give back in ways that can benefit the larger community and ensure the safety of those who have experienced victimization.
Restorative justice values all people and is needed not only in our criminal justice system, but in our homes, schools, churches and workplace.
Changing Lenses: Howard Zehr
The Little Book of Restorative Justice: Howard Zehr
The Little Book of Restorative Justice for People in Prison: Barb Toews
The Little Book of Biblical Justice: Chris Marshall
To speak with Eileen, call 905-464-3940.