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What are the main principles of restorative justice?
First, true justice should focus on harms, not rules or laws. The harm that was caused is more important than what law was broken.
Second, when someone has done wrong they have an obligation to make it right.
Third, healing happens when people can come together in dialogue. Open communication is a necessary first step toward understanding truth and finding resolution.
How Can I Get Restorative Justice in Washtenaw County?
Restorative justice is a voluntary process. Both parties involved in the harm or conflict must agree to it. Also, with a crime, the person who caused harm must accept responsibility for having done it.
If you have a conflict at home, at work or in the neighborhood, call The Dispute Resolution Center at 734-794-2125.
If you are an adult or juvenile involved in a criminal court case, ask your attorney, prosecutor, victim advocate or judge
if your case can be referred to restorative justice.
Isn’t Restorative Justice “Soft” on Criminals?
In the restorative justice process, the person who has committed the crime hears directly from the person they’ve harmed regarding the impact of their actions. They must acknowledge and assume responsibility for causing the harm, recognize, work to repair that harm, and uphold a commitment not to reoffend. None of these are easy steps for an offender to take.
The process encourages empathy for the person they harmed – as opposed to the legal system process, which tends to encourage the person who has done the harm to deny responsibility for their actions and distance themselves from the harmed person’s humanity.
Does Restorative Justice re-victimize the person harmed?
Voluntarily meeting face-to-face with the person who harmed them, and describing how the offense affected them, is most often experienced as empowering for the person harmed. A large multi-site research study found that survivors who participated in an RJ process expressed themes of gaining agency – such as feeling involved in the justice process, giving voice to opinions and emotions, getting their questions answered, and having a sense of emotional healing. Finding out why they were the object of the harm often significantly reduces their fear.
The issue of safety is addressed by having trained facilitators present as well as support people for both parties.
There are, however, some situations where the use of a RJ process might re-victimize the person harmed, such as domestic violence where a cycle of ongoing violence is present.
Since restorative justice allows the person harmed to decide what needs to happen to make things right, doesn’t this result in unequal justice? That is, “What if the person I harmed is very vengeful?”
While it is true that the person harmed has a central role in the restorative justice process, what must be done by the person who caused the harm is developed through dialog, and both parties must agree to it. If no consensus is reached, the restorative process is stopped, and the situation is diverted through more traditional channels, such as the courts.