Recently some of the national media services have portrayed the use of restorative justice, when dealing with some crimes, negatively. The comments have suggested that restorative justice does not deal with crime in a realistic manner. There are questions of appropriate punishment.
The process of restorative justice is not about punishment. An examination of the principles of restorative justice demonstrates a fundamental shift in the basic principles or paradigms from what is commonly known as the criminal justice process to restorative justice.
The focus of restorative justice is on, not only, the crime or harm that was committed but also on the victims or affected persons, the offenders or responsible persons and the community at large. Restorative justice is a process of involvement, repentance, accountability and hopefully education and healing of all the participants.
The process allows for the judgement of the police to determine the appropriateness and suitability of referring a file to the restorative justice process. Restorative justice is not a new concept for dealing with harm or crime. It has historical roots in First Nation healing circles as well as in religious traditions such as the Mennonites. It focuses on righting harms and acknowledging all who have been affected by a crime. Restorative justice enables the community to partake in the process and acknowledges community and societal needs.
Within the last year, with the support of the Nelson Police Department, a group of volunteers has been trained in the process of restorative justice. The Nelson Police restorative justice volunteers complement the work of the Kootenay Restorative Justice Society which works with the RCMP.
Files are forwarded from the police to the coordinator of the restorative justice society who then screens the file and determines the appropriateness for intake to the process. At any time, the file can be returned to the criminal justice system. Restorative justice is a process that supports the healing of affected and responsible persons as well as the community. It is not a process that belittles the need for dealing with crime in a just and fair manner.