Restorative Justice is a community-based approach to dealing with crime, the effects of crime, and the prevention of crime. A Restorative Justice process operates from a belief that the path to justice lies in problem solving and healing rather than in punitive isolation.
Restorative Practices embrace and expand upon the principles of restorative justice. Beyond the peaceful resolution of harms, the practices focus on building positive relationships and a strong community to enable communities to together develop creative and effective solutions to community issues, which prevent wrongdoing and conflict.
Foundational Principles, Beliefs, Goals and Benefits of Restorative Justice
The Principles say that when a person commits a crime:
● This is an act against people, relationships and an act against the community.
● By committing the crime, the person creates an obligation to the victim, and the community.
● When the person offending meets that obligation, they are taking responsibility for their actions, and beginning to understand and value their relationship with other people in their community.
The Beliefs are that justice should, to the greatest degree possible, do five things:
● Invite full participation of all parties affected by a crime and allow each voice to be heard.
● Focus on harms done, not on laws broken.
● Seek full and direct accountability from those who caused the harm, help victims recover in concrete and meaningful ways what was lost, and repair what was damaged.
● After reparation and restitution, reintegrate the parties back into the community.
● Strengthen the community to own its responsibility for causes that lead to crime, thereby preventing future harm.
The Goals of Restorative Justice practices require that:
● The person victimized is involved in the process and comes out of it
● The person who offended understands how their action has affected other people and takes responsibility for those effects.
● A plan of action helps to repair the harms done and to address the reasons for the offense; specific plans are tailored to the person victimized and the person who offended.
● Both the victim and the person who offended gain a sense of closure and both are reintegrated into the community.
The Benefits of Restorative Justice include:
● Reduction of recitivism.
● Keeping youth and adults as productive community members and out of prison.
● Reducing the costs of the justice system.
● Providing meaningful justice while repairing the harms to victims, community members and offenders.
Values and Principles of a Community Grounded in Restorative Justice and Practices
● There is a deep underlying belief that all community members add value and enrich the community.
● There is systematic effort to hear and respect all voices.
● There is authentic listening and sharing in the community.
● Members speak and listen from the heart.
● There is a conscious and spoken value placed on positive relationships.
● Decisions are made inclusively.
● There is an expectation that decisions and actions will be made “with” each other, not “for” or “to” by one segment of the community to another.
● There is a non-punitive response to wrongdoing when it occurs.
Quotes & Testimonials
"For many young offenders the restorative conference is a life-changing process. It is an opportunity for self reflection and growth at a critical time in their lives."
- Sheralynn Freitas
Sonoma County Deputy Chief Probation Officer
"The power of restorative justice is such that it truly restores young people to our communities, with long lasting benefits. It is a critical strategy for Sonoma County to continue to use and expand."
- Efren Carrillo
Sonoma County Supervisor
"Although the conference was very difficult, I think it was very effective and meaningful. It brought everybody together in one place and let us see and experience each others’ humanity."
- Crime Victim
"One of the things that made this conference so powerful for my son was that he had to face his victims’ anger and hurt. That had a lot of impact on him."
"The most meaningful part was the contact with the victim, because I found out what harm I had caused the family."
- Young Offender
"The plan the young offender had to follow was far more thorough than any probation of jail time he would have received. Nice work."
- Law Enforcement Officer
"The conference was a profound example of how things should work in the world. I am very glad to have the chance to participate."
- Community Member