Restorative Justice: What Is It?

Restorative Justice is fundamentally different from retributive justice. It focuses on what needs to be healed, what needs to be repaid, what needs to be learned in the wake of a crime. Rather than defining crime as a violation of the rules established by the state, Restorative Justice sees crime as a harm done to victims and communities. The victim is central to the process of defining the harm and how it might be repaired. The community is actively involved in holding young persons accountable, supporting victims, and ensuring opportunities for young persons to make amends.

The real essence of restorative justice is a face to face meeting between the victim and the young person and members of the community. This meeting gives the victim a voice and allows the parties to develop an understanding of the crime and the steps needed to make amends.

Restorative Justice reflects a belief that justice should, to the greatest degree possible, achieve the following goals:

  • Invite full participation and consensus: the victim, the offender and the community
  • Heal what has been broke.
  • Seek full and direct accountability
  • Reunite what has been divided
  • Strengthen the community to prevent further harm

- From "Restorative Justice, A Vision for Healing and Change", Susan Sharpe, May 1998

Restorative Justice: A Program For Nova Scotia

In September 1997, the Nova Scotia Department of Justice began the process of designing a restorative Justice program for Nova Scotia. The Department of Justice has taken a leadership role in establishing the legal framework and program standards, but each community agency which will be delivering the programs was invited to develop its own vision for service delivery.

In order for a Restorative Justice program to have real impact it needs to be flexible enough to meet the needs of many different offenders, victims and communities.

Restorative options are available at four key entry points in the justice system:

  • Police Entry Point (pre charge) - referral by Police Officers
  • Crown Entry Point (post Charge/pre conviction) - referral by Crown Attorneys
  • Court Entry Point (post conviction/pre sentence)- referral by Judges
  • Corrections Entry Point (post sentence) - referral by Correctional Services or Victim's Service staff

Restorative Justice was implemented in stages - Phase One saw this program directed at youth aged 12 - 17 in the Halifax Regional Municipality, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, Cumberland County and the counties comprising the Annapolis Valley (1999). Next, Restorative Justice for youth went Province wide (2001).

For more information, please refer to the Nova Scotia Department of Justice.

How Will A Restorative Justice Process Help Youth, Victims And The Community?

For the youth:

Accountability

For the victim:

An opportunity to challenge, confront, and be heard

For the community:

An opportunity for input; To offer support