Restorative Justice

Are all criminals evil? Once a person has committed an evil deed, can they reform themselves? Should they be forgiven? From the name restorative justice, you can tell that the intervention aims to restore the individual from a criminal to a law-abiding citizen. Not only is it used to help convicted criminals, but it also helps victims come to terms with what happened to them.

Restorative Justice Restorative Justice

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Table of contents
    • To learn more about restorative justice, we will start by learning the restorative justice definition and some restorative justice examples.
    • Then we will discuss potential methods of restorative justice implemented to prevent individuals from becoming repeat offenders.
    • We will then move on to learn how restorative justice and recidivism are connected.
    • To finish, we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of restorative justice.

    Restorative Justice, Written words justice with pictures of handcuffs lawyers letter of the law and lady justice holding balancing scales, StudySmarterRestorative justice is an intervention created to reduce criminal behaviour in convicted criminals, vector created by vector4stock-

    Restorative Justice Definition

    The main goal of restorative justice is to rehabilitate offenders, a preventative measure to stop convicts from re-offending.

    Restorative justice is an approach used to show offenders the damage they have caused by creating a meeting between the criminal and the victim to open a line of communication for reconciliation.

    The communication will help them acknowledge and accept the damage they have caused. In addition, the approach aims to encourage the offender to make amends with the victim and community.

    Other approaches in psychology, such as the psychodynamic approach, believe there are core concepts that explain phenomena. Similar to this, the restorative justice approach assumes that three core concepts are fundamental to rehabilitation; these are:

    • Encounter - the first stage usually involves holding the offender accountable for their criminal behaviour and having a meeting take place. This is done in a controlled environment with professionals involved to ensure the meeting is safe for everyone present.
    • Repair - the second stage involves the offender making amends and helping the victim heal.
    • Transform - refers to changing the offender's anti-social and criminal behaviour to pro-social behaviour.

    The steps are sequential; one leads to the other. If a criminal skips a stage, such as repair, the restorative justice technique is likely ineffective, and the individual is likely to re-offend. Overall, restorative justice offers victims the opportunity to seek closure, namely by asking the criminal why they broke the law and why they chose the victim to enact criminal behaviour through.

    Restorative Justice Examples

    Some examples of techniques used to restore justice are:

    • Restitution
    • Community service
    • Victim-offender reconciliation

    Let's take a look at how these may be applied to real life.

    Johnny and Luke have been fighting for a long time at school, and recently the fights have been getting worse. On the way home, Johnny decided to spray paint Luke's garage and throw eggs at the house. The police were called, and Johnny was detained.

    As the offence is not serious enough to go to prison, the judge decided it was best that he did community service and that both Johnny and Luke worked on their issues so that the incident does not get worse and to prevent Johnny from re-offending.

    From the example above, we can see that restorative justice aims to prevent people from repeatedly offending. Not only this but it can also be used to deter others from committing crimes.

    Methods of Restorative Justice

    When it comes to restorative justice, five components need to be met for it to be effective. And these are relationship, respect, responsibility, repair and reintegration.

    An easier way to remember this is the five R's that make up restorative justice.

    • Relationship - repair relationships that may be damaged as a result of the crime.
    • Respect - the method used should allow the perpetrator to express their opinion openly and not be judged.
    • Responsibility - parties involved must accept the part they played, e.g. acknowledge and regret what they did.
    • Repair - the offender should try to undo as much damage as possible, e.g. sincerely apologise if they have caused pain or anger to others.
    • Reintegration - help the offender be accepted and become a part of society, e.g. help them get a job.

    Restorative Justice, Diagram of five R's, StudySmarterThe restorative justice technique used should take into consideration the five R's, StudySmarter Original created in Canva, Sharon Thind

    The Restorative Justice Council are mainly concerned with the six principles of restorative justice practice:

    1. Restoration
    2. Voluntarism
    3. Impartiality
    4. Safety
    5. Accessibility
    6. Empowerment

    How restorative justice is carried out depends on the techniques used. For example, an individual may be told to do community service once a week for six months, whilst also undergoing anger management therapy.

    Restorative Justice and Recidivism

    As we have discussed, the goal of restorative justice is to prevent people from re-offending and reduce recidivism rates.

    Recidivism is the likelihood of a perpetrator re-offending.

    Restorative justice may decrease criminal and anti-social behaviour by ensuring that a person is held accountable for their criminal and anti-social behaviour.

    Do you think simply telling a criminal off will stop them from doing the behaviour again? Most likely not.

    The person needs to realise what they have done is wrong and unlearn the behaviour. Our behaviour does not change overnight; the same can be said about criminals. Instead, it is an active process that takes time, and often guidance is required; this is where anger management becomes useful.

    If the restorative justice techniques are effective, then this should lead to a reduction in recidivism rates.

    According to the Ministry of Justice, from July to September 2020, the proven re-offending rate is 23.9% in adults and 32.8% in juveniles. According to the report, this rate has reduced since 2019 (MoJ, 2022).1

    The results indicate that punishment techniques such as restorative justice are improving, but there is still room for development.

    Role in decreasing criminal/anti-social behaviour; and increasing pro-social behaviour

    To reduce recidivism rates, restorative justice aims to reduce criminal and anti-social behaviour and increase pro-social behaviour. Restorative justice reduces criminal behaviour by holding the offender accountable for their behaviour and trying to show them the impact their crime has had on society.

    The techniques used, such as anger-management programmes, are carried out safely with professionals where the individual is treated. The purpose of this is to prevent them from feeling 'attacked'; instead, they may think that someone is on their side and put in the effort to improve their behaviour.

    The above also explains how pro-social behaviour is improved. In addition, the techniques can be used to improve the individual's relations and mental state, increasing their pro-social behaviour.

    Restorative Justice, Volunteers picking up litter, StudySmarterCommunity service is a form of restorative justice used to hold offenders responsible for their criminal behaviour, vector created by redgreystock-

    Advantages and disadvantages of restorative justice

    The advantages of restorative justice are:

    • It gives individuals another chance to do better and the support network to do this rather than leaving them to deal with it themselves. If left alone, it's unlikely the behaviour will improve.
    • Victim satisfaction rates are quite high compared to other punishment techniques. According to the Restorative Justice Council (RJC), 85% of victims are satisfied with the technique.
    • Restorative justice has been directly linked to a 14% reduction in recidivism rates, according to RJC (however, this is relatively low considering everything)
    • Data from the Ministry of Justice (2022) has shown that re-offending rates in 2020 have reduced from 2019.
    • It can help victims also move on from incidents.

    The disadvantages of restorative justice are:

    • The restorative justice system still has room for improvements as recidivism rates are still relatively high, and there have only been minimum improvements (MoJ, 2022).
    • The technique used may cause harm to victims who have done no harm, it may be distressing for them. However, the victim is always asked beforehand if they wish to partake.
    • It is only beneficial and available to individuals who have been caught, and rather than reducing recividims rates, the technique is mainly used to provide closure to victims.

    Restorative Justice - Key takeaways

    • Restorative justice is an approach used to show offenders the damage they have caused by creating a meeting between the criminal and the victim to open a line of communication for reconciliation.
    • The restorative justice approach assumes that three core concepts are fundamental to rehabilitation: encounter, repair and transform.
    • Restitution, community service, and victim-offender reconciliation are some techniques used to restore justice.
    • There are five components that the methods of restorative justice should work on; relationship, respect, responsibility, repair and reintegration. The Restorative Justice Council places importance on six principles of practising restorative justice.
    • There are advantages and disadvantages of restorative justice, namely that 85% of victims are satisfied with the technique, but it does not effectively reduce recidivism rates.


    1. Ministry of Justice. (2022). Proven reoffending statistics: July to September 2020.
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    Frequently Asked Questions about Restorative Justice

    How is restorative justice different from traditional justice approaches?

    Restorative justice usually involves the victim and community to assist in the punishment process, but this is not the case in traditional justice approaches which focus more on the offender rather than the victims. 

    What is restorative justice?

    Restorative justice is an approach used to show offenders the damage they have caused by creating a meeting between the criminal and the victim to open a line of communication for reconciliation. It aims to punish the criminal as well as reduce recidivism rates, whilst also providing closure to the victims.

    Does restorative justice reduce reoffending?

    Restorative justice has been linked to a 14% reduction in recidivism rates, according to RJC (however, this is relatively low).

    How does restorative justice help victims?

    It allows victims to meet the offender in a safe environment and come to terms with what happened, providing closure and the opportunity to question the criminal on why they committed the crimes. Usually, the offender apologises during this, which can also help victims. 

    What is the process of restorative justice?

    Restorative justice involves organising a meeting in a safe, controlled environment with a professional mediator between the offender and the victim. The process involves repairing relationships, allowing the victim to heal, and transformation. 

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