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Key issues


Key Terms

Due to the great diversity in the types of restorative justice programmes around the world, the Basic Principles (2002) do not define 'restorative justice' but rather provide operational definitions of restorative justice programmes, processes and outcomes. 'Restorative justice programme' means any programme that uses restorative processes and seeks to achieve restorative outcomes.

'Restorative process' means any process in which the victim and the offender, and, where appropriate, any other individuals or community members affected by a crime, participate together actively in the resolution of matters arising from the crime, generally with the help of a facilitator. Restorative processes may include mediation, conciliation, conferencing and sentencing circles.

'Restorative outcome' means an agreement reached as a result of a restorative process. Restorative outcomes include responses and programmes such as reparation, restitution and community service, aimed at meeting the individual and collective needs and responsibilities of the parties and achieving the reintegration of the victim and the offender.

Different definitions of restorative justice are available in the literature, reflecting the broad range of approaches that comprise this evolving field of justice. The following example, which combines outcomes, processes, and values, comes from Christopher Marshall (2012, p. 4 and 301):

Restorative justice involves a voluntary process whereby those with a personal stake in an offence or conflict or injustice come together, in a safe and respectful environment, with trained facilitators, to speak truthfully about what happened and its impact on their lives, clarify accountability for the harms that have occurred, and resolve together how best to promote repair and bring about positive changes for all involved.

This definition highlights several characteristics of restorative justice, especially the role of informal dialogue between the affected parties in achieving a meaningful sense of justice. Such dialogues seek to answer three basic questions:

  • What happened?
  • Who has been affected?
  • How can things be made right again?

There is both a logical and emotional sequence to a restorative dialogue. The first question involves speaking about past events, as fully and frankly as the participants need to hear. The second question focuses on present experience, the harmful results or unmet needs that still exist. The third looks to the future, the actions and commitments required, in the immediate or longer-term, to bring about as much repair as is possible.


The sections that follow explore four sub-topics on restorative justice:

Next:  Topic one - Concept, values and origin of restorative justice
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