Restorative justice has been described in such far-reaching terms as "a revolution in criminal justice" (National Institute of Corrections, quoted by Zehr, 1997); "heal[ing] and put[ting] right the wrongs" (Zehr and Mika, 1997); "fueled by commitment and passion not unlike that of a revival meeting" (Bazemore and Pranis, 1997); "an entirely new framework for understanding and responding to crime and victimization within American society" (Umbreit, 1997b); and "a paradigm shift" (Van Ness, 1997).
The phrase "restorative justice" implies both process and outcome. It does not indicate a particular program, although programs and practices may be classified by the extent to which they advance restorative justice concepts.
Six principles shape the framework of restorative justice: the nature of crime, the goal of justice, the role of victims, the role of offenders, the role of the local community, and the role of the formal criminal/juvenile justice system.
The nature of crime. Crime is a human process whereby humans violate both personal relationships and social relationships implied as a consequence of being part of a community. Crime is not merely an act of breaking laws of the State; it is a tearing of the social or community fabric. Crime is the violation of one human being by another.
The goal of justice. The proper goal of justice is to repair the damage done and restore relationships, both personal and communal, to their original state to the extent possible.
The role of victims. Restoration for victims of crime can happen only if they have the opportunity to choose involvement in a justice process that meets their need for validation as individuals who have been hurt. Victim involvement may include receipt of information, dialogue with the offender, resolution of conflict with the offender, restitution, reduction of fear, heightened sense of safety, partial ownership of the process, resolving the experience, and renewal of hope.
The role of offenders. Restoration for offenders who commit criminal or delinquent acts can happen if they have the opportunity to accept their responsibilities and obligations toward individual victims and the community as a whole. Such opportunity may include defining their obligations, participating in safe, mediated face-to-face encounters with victims, understanding the impact of their own actions, providing restitution in creative ways, identifying their needs, having partial ownership of the process, resolving the conflict, and renewing hope.
The role of the local community. Restoration for the local community can happen if its resources are brought to bear on the needs of victims and offenders as well as in prevention of delinquent and criminal acts.
The role of the formal criminal/juvenile justice system.
Restoration for the formal criminal/juvenile justice system can happen
if it continues to work to ensure victim and offender involvement that
genuinely engages all participants without coercion. As it seeks to promote
justice in the community, this system must continue to monitor accountability,
exhausting the least restrictive interventions for offenders before moving
toward incarceration alternatives.