Restorative Justice

IV. Values and Principles

Underlying restorative intervention is a set of basic values, most notably “respect,” democratic decision making, fairness, and so on. Core principles, on the other hand, are value-based assumptions that express ideal goals and objectives to be achieved in a justice process. Such principles also provide general normative guidelines for gauging the strength and integrity (sometimes called the “restorativeness”) of any response to crime and harm. Broad core principles (as articulated by Van Ness & Strong, 1997) that guide restorative justice practice, and also suggest independent but mutually reinforcing justice goals, can be stated as follows:

A. The Principle of Repair: Justice requires that healing be enabled for victims, offenders, and communities that have been injured by crime. The extent to which harm is repaired is assessed by the degree to which all parties identify the damage of a crime that needs to be addressed, and develop and carry out a plan to do so.

B. The Principle of Stakeholder Involvement: Victims, offenders, and communities should have the opportunity for active involvement in the justice process as early and as fully as possible. The extent to which effective stakeholder involvement is achieved is assessed by the degree to which victims, offenders, and individuals from the community affected by a crime or harmful action are intentionally and actively engaged in decision making about how to accomplish this repair.

C. The Principle of Transformation in Community and Government Roles and Relationships: The relative roles and responsibilities of government and community must be rethought. In promoting justice, government is responsible for preserving a just order, and community for establishing a just peace. The extent to which the community–government relationship is transformed in a restorative process is assessed by the degree to which a response to crime operationalizes a deliberate rethinking and reshaping of the role of the criminal justice system in relation to that of community members and groups.

While these core principles reflect normative values, they can also be linked to social theories that should guide practice, and in the long run help to explain why a given intervention, or a practice implemented over months or years, is successful or not. Later in this paper, it will be demonstrated how each principle can be connected to causal theories drawn from criminological and other social science literature and intervention theories of crime and desistance.

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