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Restorative Justice is a system of criminal justice which focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation of victims and the community at large.

Catholic social justice Gospel-values find their place in Restorative Justice. Some are: peace-making, reconciliation; forgiveness; care and support for one another with a context of community; personal responsibility and accountability to one another, especially regarding wrong doing; and restoration of the wrongdoer who is remorseful and willing to change his/her ways. These values are not unique to a faith-based world view, but the Restorative Justice movement has certainly been encouraged and fostered by individuals and groups who identify themselves with this perspective.

Two of the values that resonate especially well with traditional faith-based thought are reconciliation and forgiveness. Restorative Justice, though not specifically religious in its premise, strives to bring reconciliation between the affected parties, working to provide healing and closure for all participants, as individuals when possible, but ultimately as community. Sometimes resolution is possible without reconciliation, but greater satisfaction is experienced when the affected parties can achieve reconciliation with one another. Similarly, some for the most spectacular results in Restorative Justice have been achieved when the victims have been provided with what they have needed to be able to find inner healing and forgiveness toward the offender(s).

Restorative Justice holds in balance these two needs:

  • To identify wrongdoing as such, and hold accountable those who have perpetrated the wrong.
  • To allow for reparation of harm, restitution, and amends, and the healing of broken relationships through exploration of thoughts and feelings, so that forgiveness can take place.

Restorative Justice also harnesses the energies of the community to meet the needs of both victims and offenders, not stigmatizing either of them, but providing them the help they each need to move on in dignity. This resonates with concepts of fellowship and care within most faith-based communities.