While criminal justice looks at a crime as a violation of the law and requires the state to determine blame and impose punishment, restorative Justice looks at crime as a violation of people and relationships. This means that we involve victims, offenders, and the community in an effort to repair harm and prevent future incidents from occurring. The central focus in Restorative Justice is repairing the harm and on holding the client accountable, as well as ensuring that the client has the resources they need not to reoffend. The restorative practice is guided by restorative questions such as:
· What happened?
· What were you thinking at the time?
· What have you thought about since?
· Who has been affected by what you have done? In what way?
· What do you think you need to do to make things right?
· Who has been harmed? How will you repair that harm?
The restorative process is centered around Reparative Panels, which involve a panel of three volunteers and the panel manager working with a client to come up with a contract to repair harm, make amends, and learn better strategies not to re-offend. After reviewing the client’s intake summary, volunteers engage in a discussion with the participant by asking open-ended restorative questions. The discussion should elicit information, as well as, offer the participant an opportunity to learn from the context of the questions. Panel members and the participant collectively discuss and decide individualized conditions, keeping in mind the type of offense, circumstances involved, the victim, the harm, making amends to the community, and other suitability factors, such as risks and needs of the client. Clients then typically have three months to complete the contract before coming back for a final review meeting.