Restorative Justice - Fundamental Principles

by Ron Claassen, Director
Center for Peacemaking and Conflict Studies
Fresno Pacific University

Presented May 1995 at NCPCR; revised May 1996 at UN Alliance of NGOs Working Party on Restorative Justice

© 1996 Ron Claassen. These principles may be reproduced so long as they are not edited for content, the source is listed, and the legend "Printed by permission" is included.
1. Crime is primarily an offense against human relationships, andsecondarily a violation of a law (since laws are written to protectsafety and fairness in human relationships).

2. Restorative Justice recognizes that crime (violation of personsand relationships) is wrong and should not occur, and also recognizes that after it does there are dangers and opportunities. Thedanger is that the community, victim(s), and/or offender emergefrom the response further alienated, more damaged, disrespected,disempowered, feeling less safe and less cooperative with society. The opportunity is that injustice is recognized, the equity isrestored (restitution and grace), and the future is clarified sothat participants are safer, more respectful, and more empoweredand cooperative with each other and society.

3. Restorative Justice is a process to "make things as right aspossible" which includes: attending to needs created by the offensesuch as safety and repair of injuries to relationships and physicaldamage resulting from the offense; and attending to needs relatedto the cause of the offense (addictions, lack of social or employment skills or resources, lack of moral or ethical base, etc.).

4. The primary victim(s) of a crime is/are the one(s) mostimpacted by the offense. The secondary victims are others impactedby the crime and might include family members, friends, witnesses,criminal justice officials, community, etc.

5. As soon as immediate victim, community, and offender safetyconcerns are satisfied, Restorative Justice views the situation asa teachable moment for the offender; an opportunity to encouragethe offender to learn new ways of acting and being in community.

6. Restorative Justice prefers responding to the crime at theearliest point possible and with the maximum amount of voluntarycooperation and minimum coercion, since healing in relationshipsand new learning are voluntary and cooperative processes.

7. Restorative Justice prefers that most crimes are handled usinga cooperative structure including those impacted by the offense asa community to provide support and accountability. This might include primary and secondary victims and family (or substitutes ifthey choose not to participate), the offender and family, communityrepresentatives, government representatives, faith communityrepresentatives, school representatives, etc.

8. Restorative Justice recognizes that not all offenders willchoose to be cooperative. Therefore there is a need for outsideauthority to make decisions for the offender who is not cooperative. The actions of the authorities and the consequences imposedshould be tested by whether they are reasonable, restorative, andrespectful (for victim(s), offender, and community).

9. Restorative Justice prefers that offenders who pose significantsafety risks and are not yet cooperative be placed in settingswhere the emphasis is on safety, values, ethics, responsibility,accountability, and civility. They should be exposed to the impactof their crime(s) on victims, invited to learn empathy, and offeredlearning opportunities to become better equipped with skills to bea productive member of society. They should continually be invited(not coerced) to become cooperative with the community and be giventhe opportunity to demonstrate this in appropriate settings as soonas possible.

10. Restorative Justice requires follow-up and accountabilitystructures utilizing the natural community as much as possible,since keeping agreements is the key to building a trustingcommunity.

11. Restorative Justice recognizes and encourages the role ofcommunity institutions, including the religious/faith community,in teaching and establishing the moral and ethical standards whichbuild up the community.

Center for Peacemaking and Conflict Studies
Fresno Pacific University
1717 South Chestnut Avenue
Fresno, CA 93702
ph (559) 455-5840 FAX (559) 252- 4800

Page constructed and maintained by Duane Ruth-Heffelbower Last update 4/30/98.

© 1996 Center for Peacemaking and Conflict Studies

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