What Is Restorative Justice?

Restorative Justice is:

  • An alternative approach to justice
  • A centuries old practice deeply rooted in indigenous philosophies that value healing over punishment
  • A Native American and First Nation practice that included tribal healing circles and peacemaking as a response to crime and conflict
  • A response to crime and violence that shifts the focus from punishment to “responsibility, rehabilitation and restoration”
  • A way of holding offenders accountable even as it opens paths to healing, especially with victims
  • A way of addressing the needs of everyone impacted by crime: victims, offenders, families, communities, and those working in the criminal justice system
  • An evidence base practice proven to decrease victimization and increase public safety
  • A way of understanding crime and wrongdoing in terms of the people and relationships impacted, rather than the Law or rule broken

When wrongdoing has been committed, the Retributive System asks three questions:

  1. Who did it?
  2. What rule was broken?
  3. How do we punish them?

Restorative Justice also asks three questions:

  1. What is the harm?
  2. Who has been harmed?
  3. How do we repair it?

Catholic Social Teaching:

Restorative Justice practices were present in the days of the early church and reflect the most basic tenets of Catholic Social Teaching also reflected in sacred scripture:

  • Human life and dignity are sacred
  • Our participation in community is a responsibility and right
  • We are called to strengthen and nurture the family
  • We respect human rights
  • The needs of the poor and vulnerable come first
  • We pursue peace and justice
  • We care for all of God’s creation

Web link resources:

Rosemarie Allen

Jean Klasovsky

California Conference of Catholic Bishops

Catholic Mobilizing Network

Book Resources:

Harm, Healing, and Human Dignity, a Catholic Encounter with Restorative Justice, Liturgical Press, adapted by: Caitlin Morneau, Director of Restorative Justice at Catholic Mobilizing Network

Just Mercy, a story of Justice and Redemption, Spiegel & Grau, by: Bryan Stevenson

Tattoos on the Heart, the power of boundless compassion, Free Press, by: Fr. Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Inc.

When we Visit Jesus in Prison, a guide for Catholic Ministry, ACTA Publications, by: Dale Recinella, Catholic lay minister and recipient of the Holy Cross – Pro Ecclesla et Pontifice