Source: (2007) Acta Criminologica . 20(1):79-90.

Restorative justice is the term commonly applied to a variety of dispute-resolution practices that aim to achieve more desirable outcomes than conventional forms of punishment. It is not restricted to a particular form of program, but refers to any practice that has the following characteristics: an emphasis on the offender's personal accountability for the harms his/her crime has caused the victim and the community; an inclusive decisionmaking process that encourages participation by key parties in the dispute; and the goal of remedying the harm caused by the offense. RJ has been embraced in most Western states in one form or another. This development is closely linked to premodern, modernist, and postmodern perspectives on society's response to crime. Over the past decade, South Africa has initiated a surge of reforms through new legislation and policies, with a focus on vulnerable groups, mainly women and children. RJ is a long way from becoming the mainstream approach to justice in South Africa; however, it has attracted attention as part of the enthusiasm for reform. Although the influence of RJ is evident in government rhetoric, there is a lack of engagement with relevant stakeholders on how RJ may inform a more significant portion of justice system activity. There has been little effort to address the practical issues that must be confronted in the design and implementation of RJ concepts in specific program structures. Before this can occur, more research is required in analyzing the relevance of various RJ models and practices for South Africa. (abstract courtesy of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service,