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What is Restorative Justice?

Restorative justice is a philosophy that views harm and crime as violations of people and relationships. It is a holistic process that addresses the repercussions and obligations created by harm, with a view to putting things as right as possible. 

Restorative justice services have their roots in all indigenous cultures. It is the ancient wisdom of people coming together to address conflict, discuss problems, make decisions, and build stronger community connections.  Restorative justice is best practiced when guided by restorative values and principles and when those most affected are both the focus and the directors.


When compared with our current models of punishment, whether it is in the justice system or discipline in schools, restorative justice requires a paradigm shift in thinking about reactions to harm.  This becomes most apparent when we compare the values and principles of restorative justice to those of the current justice system, which emphasizes punishment and retribution. 

Restorative Language

  • Who was impactedor affected by what happened?
  • What was the resulting harm?
  • What needs do those involved have?
  • What needs to happen to repair the harm?
  • What rules were broken?
  • Who did it?
  • What punishment do they deserve?


Retributive Language

Restorative Questions

Using key questions helps those harmed by others, as well as responding to challenging behavior:

  1. What happened, and what were you thinking at the time?
  2. What have you thought about since?
  3. Who has been affected by what you have done?  In what way?
  4. What about this has been hardest for you?
  5. What do you think you need to do to make things as right as possible?