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Restorative Justice

Restorative Justice is an approach that focuses on the needs of victims and offenders, instead of satisfying abstract legal principles or focusing on punishing the offender. Victims take an active role in the process, while offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions, to repair the harm they've done—by apologizing, repairing damages or returning items, or completing community service. Restorative Justice is based on the idea that considers crime and wrongdoing to be an offense against an individual or community; thus restitution is necessary to restore and strengthen relations. Restorative justice that fosters dialogue between victim and offender shows the highest rates of victim satisfaction and offender accountability. This process allows for the victims to share how they have been affected with expectations that the offender will develop empathy and not re-offend because of understanding what is appropriate and what is right, not because of fear of retribution.

Traditional criminal justice seeks answers to three questions: What laws have been broken? Who did it? What do the offender(s) deserve? Restorative justice instead asks: Who has been harmed? What are their needs? Whose obligation is it to support these needs? As is the case with restitution, restored and strengthened relations are the expected results.

When a restorative circle is held, all members have a chance to share their feelings and responses to the offender’s behavior. The offender can share his/her feelings as well as offer meaningful and sincere means to makes things right with victims. This approach is used in schools and by the District Discipline Committee.