Restorative Justice

Presented at the National Institution of Corrections Teleconference on Restorative Justice, December 12, 1996, were the “Basic Values of Restorative Justice”. They are as follows:
(1). Crime is an offense against human relationships.

(2). Victims and the community are central to the justice process.

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(3). The first priority of the justice system is to assist victims.

(4). The second priority is to restore the community, to the degree possible.

(5). The offender has personal responsibility to victims and to the community for crimes committed.

(6). Stakeholders share responsibilities for Restorative Justice through partnerships for action.

(7). The offender will develop improved competency and understanding as a result of the Restorative Justice experience.

Restorative Justice is an intellectual rather than an emotional approach to criminal justice. It is an avenue of reform that is comparable to an infant in its evolution. Medically we still are exploring the human brain and the linkages in it that create morality, reciprocity, and aggression. Only learned men and women without prejudices can in most cases judge whether another man is capable of reform or is a true threat to our societal goals. Kay Pranis, the Restorative Justice Planner from the Minnesota Department of Corrections, believes like others in the reformative movement in the concept of building a new understanding of justice based on a foundation of democracy, caring, and mutual responsibility.
The state of Vermont is blazing, and will continue to blaze, new frontiers in the Reformative Justice Model that is now implemented in the states correctional policies. John F. Gorczyk, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Corrections, and Dave Peebles, the director of planning for the department, opened a conference on July 25, 1998 at Dartmouth College on Reparative Justice. They presented the theory and design principles of the Vermont Reparative Model, which is based on the new understanding of human nature emerging from studies of evolutionary psychology and evolutionary biology. ” At the core of this model is the need for the offender to demonstrate his acknowledgement of responsibility by engaging actions to repair the damage that he has done” (Perry, J., 1998).

Reparative boards are a very important part of community involvement in community based-corrections. The reparative board in each community has important goals. The board extracts restitution from the offender in the forms of community service, verbal and public apologies to the victim(s) and the community, and other pertinent requests of restitution decided on by the board and the offender. Reparative boards assist in the overseeing of the offenders’ probationary period from which the offender is released from by the board upon completion of his reparative contract. If the offender does not meet his contract requirements a violation of probation order is cited and the offender must return to court to face a stiffer penalty. Usually this penalty consists of work crew or jail time. Reparative boards are selected and run by a probation/parole officer in the community’s jurisdiction. Members of the boards work on a volunteer basis.