Sunday, April 19, 2009

Backgrounder on Restorative Justice by Bernie Mullins

Restorative Justice is an emerging approach that emphasizes the need for healing in the wake of pain created by criminal behaviour.

Sometimes called transformative justice, restorative justice is an attempt to understand the needs of everyone who has been hurt. This includes the victim, the offender, their families and the community.

Restorative justice rejects the “us versus them” mentality that often characterizes much of the public debate over crime. The media has often focused on a message that calls for harshness by emphasizing punishment, incarceration, and retribution.

Restorative justice calls for accountability on the part of the offender, encourages forgiveness, and builds a foundation where justice satisfies the brokenness of the human spirit.

Crime is often a symptom of much deeper social ills such as poverty, mental illness, and social alienation. The principals of restoration are based on the full Biblical meaning of justice, which challenges the whole community to move toward a more hopeful vision of our society.

Restorative justice is a very practical approach that has resulted in initiatives on the part of faith communities, organizations, and some public programs. Some examples of these include:

1. Victim Offender Mediation: Provides a safe and appropriate venue for the offender to express genuine remorse and take full accountability for the harm created by his behaviour. Victims who are able to forgive report feelings of freedom not previously experienced.

2. Circles of Support and Accountability: Circles of Support and Accountability help offenders convicted of sexual offences to safely return to the community by connecting with a supportive group that also exercises accountability.

By Bernie Mullins, Coordinator of Chaplaincy, Manitoba Corrections