The Issue

The Heart of the Matter

Crime and wrongdoing break down individual relationships, but the ripple effect of those behaviors can extend the impact to include friends, families, communities, and many others. While crime causes broken relationships, it also flows from broken relationships and communities. Crime occurs within a context of deeper hurts, power imbalances, and unjust structures. Often, we have to dig down further to uncover the initial hurts that have been ignored, suppressed, or never dealt with. We must give these wounds the light and attention they need to properly heal.

Justice, like crime, ripples outward. It leads to wholeness and wellbeing within us, our relationships, our communities, and our world. Like fishermen who mend their nets in the morning after fishing all night, justice requires that those most impacted by crime do the hard work of mending the torn nets of their relationships.

Justice should also address the root causes of crime, even to the point of transforming unjust systems and structures. If restorative justice is based on the idea that we are interconnected and woven together in humanity’s netting, then we must examine and actively address the underlying issues that lead to crime and the context in which it occurs.

With this in mind, we define restorative justice as:

A response to wrongdoing that prioritizes repairing harm, to the extent possible, caused or revealed by the wrongful behavior. The stakeholders impacted most by the wrongdoing cooperatively decide how to repair victim harm, hold offenders accountable and strengthen the community’s relational health and safety.

How Crime Hurts Everyone

Broken criminal justice systems help perpetuate the cycle of crime.

Lengthy Pre-Trial Detention

Millions of prisoners around the world are held in crowded, inhumane conditions as they wait for trial. Often, they wait longer than the maximum sentence they could receive if found guilty.

Punitive Punishment

Many justice systems focus on punishment for wrongdoings, rather than creating rehabilitative environments where prisoners can learn personal responsibility for their behavior.

Suffering Victims

Victims of crime receive little help to recover from their trauma. They are ignored except when called as a witness in a prosecution.

Silent Victims

Families and children of prisoners live in poverty in remote, hard-to-reach communities. They are often ostracized for being related to a prisoner and are at risk for physical harm and emotional trauma.

How Restorative Justice Repairs Harm

Restorative justice is best accomplished through cooperative processes that allow willing prisoners and victims to meet and explore topics such as personal responsibility and making amends. This can lead to the transformation of people, relationships, and communities.

Learn how  this transformation is taking place in first-person accounts of the impact of our restorative justice work.

Read Impact Stories
Support the cause

We've Been Restoring Justice for More Than 40 Years

Your donation helps Prison Fellowship International repair the harm caused by crime by emphasizing accountability, forgiveness, and making amends. When victims, offenders, and community members meet to decide how to do that, the results are transformational.

Donate Now