Assumptions Foci Objectives And Foundations Of Restorative Justice

As defined by the Restorative Justice Consortium (1998), 'Restorative Justice seeks to balance the concerns of the victim and the community with the need to reintegrate the offender into society. It seeks to assist the recovery of the victim and enable all parties with a stake in the justice process to participate fruitfully in it' (p. 2). In support of this endeavor, the following core assumptions have been identified:

• that crime has its origins in social conditions and relationships in the community;

• that crime-prevention is dependent on communities taking some responsibility (along with local and central governments' responsibility for general social policy) for remedying those conditions that cause crime;

• that the aftermath of crime cannot be fully resolved for the parties themselves without facilitating their personal involvement;

• that justice measures must be flexible enough to respond to the particular exigencies, personal needs and potential for action in each case;

• that partnership and common objectives among justice agencies, and between them and the community, are essential to optimal effectiveness and efficiency; and

• that justice consists of a balanced approach in which a single objective is not allowed to dominate the others (Marshall, 1999).

This model stands in stark contrast to elements of the traditional, 'retributive' justice paradigm, characterized by 'an exact scale of punishments for acts without reference to the criminal's circumstances' (Masters and Robertson, 1990, p. 88). Since the inception of 'the first professional police department, created in 1829 by Sir Robert Peel... [as] a liberal, humanitarian response to the problems of social disorder and crime' (Gilsinan, 1990, p. 85), there have existed forward-thinking attempts to 'understand and interpret information dealing with human behaviors' in a criminal context (Parry and Drogin, 2000, p. 1). It has long been recognized that '[c]rime problems have been dealt with too long with only the aid of common sense. Catch criminals and lock them up; if they hit you, hit them back. This is common sense, but it does not work' (Menninger, 1966, p. 12; Roach, 2000).

Restorative Justice differs from retributive presumptions in several specific aspects. A retribution-based model focuses upon the state as the violated party, emphasizing adversary relationships, the imposition of pain as a deterrent, the offender's past behavior, and a dependence upon professional judgment. By contrast, the concerns of Restorative Justice include victims as violated parties, the primacy of dialogue and negotiation, restitution as a means of restoration, the harmful consequences of offenders' behavior, and direct involvement by participants (Zehr, 1990).

Such assumptions and foci have led proponents of Restorative Justice to a delineation of key objectives, including the following:

• to attend fully to victims' needs—material, financial, emotional and social (including those personally close to the victim who may be similarly affected);

• to prevent re-offending by reintegrating offenders into the community;

• to enable offenders to assume active responsibility for their actions;

• to recreate a working community that supports the rehabilitation of offenders and victims and is active in preventing crime; and

• to provide a means of avoiding escalation of legal justice and the associated costs and delays (Marshall, 1999).

In essence, such objectives embrace a 'problem-solving', preventative model (Bazemore and Schiff, 1996) that promotes a sense of responsibility for the offender's destructive, demeaning, and/or disenfranchising actions (Cather, 1995; Steinfeld, 1998; Walters and White, 1998). This approach further instills an empowering sense of responsibility for the resolution and repair of these situations by those against whom a crime has been committed (Dignan and Cavadino, 1996). Participants are thus freed from the mechanical constraints of a system limiting criminal procedure to a series of rules that are viewed as abstract and impersonal by offenders as well as victims (Apospori and Alpert, 1993; Mitchell, 1998). Instead, they may focus on the specific factors unique to each separate, discrete human interaction, including personal perspectives on loss as well as blame (Mohr and Luscri, 1995; Shepherd, 1990), in addition to the predictable fallout from a combination of distinct, individual personalities (Bradfield and Acquino, 1999; Vaccaro, 1988).

Restorative Justice has roots in 'the traditional justice of the ancient Arab, Greek, Indian and Roman civilizations, and the familial perspective of indigenous peoples of North America and Australasia' (Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales, and North Ireland, 2000, p. 4). As such, it exists as a truly international, multicultural phenomenon, rather than an imposition of one legal system's organizing construct upon another. Not confined in its genesis merely to adjudicative concerns, Restorative Justice is grounded in the spiritual underpinnings of most widely espoused faith traditions; for example:

• Christianity's tradition of 'compassion for offenders' and its historical reaction against an inherited Roman notions of 'retributive law' (Allard and Northey, 2001, p. 127; Baier and Wright, 2001; Ellis and Peterson, 1996; Pettersson, 1991);

• Hinduism's overlap between the concepts of penance and punishment, with acknowledgment of a duty to restore victims to health (Neufeldt, 2001; Padayachee and Singh, 1998);

• Islam's focus upon 'forgiveness and minimum punitive measures', with 'participation of the victim, the offender, and the community' (Ammar, 2001, pp. 172-173; Azayem and Hedayat-Diba, 1994);

• Judaism's 'interest in the criminal's repentance, direct confrontation between litigants, and avoidance of punitive incarceration' (Segal, 2001, p. 194; Ben-David and Weller, 1995; Mesch and Fishman, 1998); and

• Sikhism's promotion of 'mutual coexistence and understanding' with 'actual practice that fully restores an offender in the community' (Singh, 2001, p. 214; Cochrane and Bal, 1990; Hans, 1986).

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