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What is Restorative Justice?

Restorative Justice is:

A process whereby all parties with a stake in a specific offence come together to collectively identify the harms, needs, and obligations in order to heal and put things as right as possible (Marshall 1999; ECOSOC 2002; Zehr 2015).

Victim Services and Crime Prevention of the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General is committed to a restorative justice approach that considers the involvement of victims, offenders and communities in achieving justice and addressing the harm caused by crime.

Crime Prevention Information Series: Restorative Justice
Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General

Restorative Justice (RJ) seeks to create just outcomes by repairing the harm caused by crime and violence. Typically this happens through facilitating a process that addresses victims’ needs and holds offenders meaningfully accountable for their actions. In this approach, crime is understood not only as breaking the law, but as a violation of people and relationships and a disruption of the peace in a community.

In a restorative justice process, offenders must first accept responsibility for their role in an offence and the harm they have caused. Victims must also voluntarily choose to participate. Communities or community members are often actively involved in the process as interested stakeholders, supporters, or facilitators.

In B.C., restorative justice is most commonly used for less serious offences such as mischief, assault, and theft. However, a restorative justice process can potentially be used for any crime in which harm has occurred. This can happen where the offender is showing an adequate degree of responsibility and willingness to make amends, and where the victim would like an opportunity to be heard, to have questions answered, or to seek restitution. All cases must be individually addressed for appropriateness.

When an act of crime or violence has been committed, those involved may feel varying degrees of confusion, remorse, loss, fear, anxiety, and/or guilt. The criminal justice system may not be able to help alleviate these challenges. In some cases, people may be interested in learning more about additional options available to them, including a restorative justice process.

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