Source: (2006) Dalhousie Law Journal, vol. 29. 297-343.

The Nova Scotia Restorative Justice Program (“NSRJ”) is one of the oldest and by all accounts the most comprehensive in Canada. The program centres on youth justice, and operates through referrals by police, prosecutors, judges and correctional officials to community organizations which facilitate restorative conferences and other restoratively oriented processes. More than five years of NSRJ experience with thousands of cases has led to a considerable rethinking of restorative justice theory and practice in relation to governing policies, standards for program implementation and responses to controversial issues. The purpose of this paper is to explore the significance of the Nova Scotia experience to date for sustaining restorative justice beyond the pilot project stage, where a vision of community-based justice is institutionalized with the support of considerable state resources. The first part of the paper explains the genesis, structure, theoretical goals and empirical evaluation of the program to date. The second part examines some of the challenges of institutionalizing comprehensive restorative justice. The paper concludes with general observations about the broader implications for restorative justice theory and practice of the Nova Scotia experience. (excerpt)