While noting the importance of a justice system for the protection of human rights and maintaining of public safety, the speakers explain how the criminal justice system discourages offenders to take responsibility for their actions and often neglects the needs of victims. Restorative justice, on the other hand, brings both the offender and the victim into the response to criminal behaviour. In this way, those responsible for causing harm are empowered to take on responsibility for their behaviour and for making things right. Those that have been harmed have the opportunity to name their needs and have those met.
“Rooted in respect” refers to the key value of respecting one-another in dialogue and in all our responses to harmful behaviour. This respect is a humanising approach to justice for both the offender and the victim. At the same time, as Howard Zehr explains, restorative dialogues allow the community to discuss what values are important and what justice should look like.
The concepts of restorative justice can be found in many cultures. As Harley Eagle and others explain, many indigenous cultures recognise the connectedness of community members and how justice responses need to take these into account. They go on to describe the emergence of restorative justice in the 1970s and the various processes associated with it.
The featured speakers describe the ways in which restorative
discipline in schools can work to create a better learning environment. They highlight the use of restorative practices in responding to historical harms such as the removal and storage of remains from indigenous graves in the United States in the 1800s. The case of a Christian congregation responding to a sexual offense by one of its members illustrates one of many ways in which restorative justice can be applied.
In exploring the many facets of restorative justice principles and applications, Restorative Justice: Rooted in Respect offers a good introduction to key concepts for a variety of audiences. The DVD is available from the Mennonite Central Committee for $10.