Best Practices In Your Program
Restorative justice can be delivered effectively in so many different ways, and varies based on cultural, legal, and regional differences.
Ensure that all parties impacted by the harm or conflict have the opportunity to participate voluntarily in the restorative justice process. This includes victims, offenders, and affected community members. Encourage open and honest communication among participants.
Safety and Support:
Create a safe and supportive environment for participants to engage in the restorative process. This includes providing emotional support for victims and addressing any concerns regarding safety.
Trained Facilitators: Utilize trained facilitators or mediators to guide the restorative justice process. These professionals should have expertise in restorative practices, active listening, and conflict resolution.
Preparation and Assessment:
Thoroughly prepare participants for the restorative process, explaining its purpose and what to expect. Conduct individual assessments to identify participants' needs and potential risks to tailor the process accordingly.
Focus on Impact and Accountability:
Emphasize the impact of the harm on victims and communities rather than solely focusing on the rule-breaking or offense. Encourage the offenders to take responsibility for their actions and understand the outcomes of their behavior.
Be culturally sensitive and respectful of the diverse backgrounds and perspectives of participants. Consider cultural practices and norms in the restorative justice process.
Follow-up and Support: Provide ongoing support and follow-up for all participants after the restorative process to ensure that agreements are upheld and that participants receive any necessary assistance or resources.
Integration with the Justice System:
Collaborate with the traditional justice system to integrate restorative justice practices effectively. Develop partnerships with law enforcement, courts, and other agencies to facilitate referrals and cooperation.
Continuous Evaluation and Improvement:
Regularly assess the effectiveness of restorative justice programs and interventions. Collect feedback from participants and stakeholders to identify areas for improvement and to inform future practices.
Engage the broader community in understanding and supporting restorative justice principles. Building community awareness and support can help create an environment conducive to successful implementation.
Best Practices for Conducting a Restorative Justice Forum
Contact and inform participants prior to the forum, ensuring understanding of the issues and process.
Offer land acknowledgment opportunities at the start of the forum.
Create an open, safe, culturally safe and trusting atmosphere
Make certain everyone in attendance has a reason to be there. Limit attendance to those supporters directly impacted by the harm, or who are directly supporting someone who has been impacted by the harm.
Help people understand why they are participating
Speak in simple and direct language
View yourself as an assist to the process; a thoughtful guide that can bring people back to restorative values and guidelines, if needed
Treat all participants with dignity and respect
Make participants the center of attention
Remember the purpose and focus of the forum
Make sure everyone has a clear understanding of any agreements reached
Ensure that participants feel ownership for what has been achieved
Ensure agreements are not stigmatizing or shame-inducing
End on a positive and optimistic note
Practices to Avoid
Do NOT use the following techniques:
Proceeding if the facts are in question
Not allowing all participants to outline what happened and how it affected them. We want to hear what happened from both responsible and affected parties.
Losing sight of the aim of the process: to achieve the most satisfactory outcome for victims and offenders; repairing the harm done and reducing the potential for further harm.
Involving people who have not been directly impacted by the harm or who are not directly supporting someone who has been impacted by the harm
Rushing the process
Imposing own values or ideas about solutions instead of listening to the needs of the group
Taking sides, it’s important to remain as unbiased as possible
Losing track; deviating from the script (order of events)
Trying to provide the answers or to “fix” things
Being overly passive on process
Allowing discussion to move away from RJ values or cause harm
Operating "colour blind" or not utilizing an anti-oppressive lens
Issuing a final lecture
Coercing participants to utilize a Restorative Justice approach or threatening punitive measures if they do not comply
Does Restorative Justice have agreed-upon standards of practice?
Yes, restorative justice has developed agreed-upon standards of practice over time. These standards help guide the implementation of restorative justice principles and ensure that the process is carried out in a fair, ethical, and effective manner. While specific standards may vary depending on the jurisdiction, cultural context, and the organizations involved, there are several key documents and organizations that have contributed to the establishment of these standards. Some of the notable ones include:
United Nations Guidelines for
Restorative Justice in Criminal Matters
The United Nations has developed guidelines that promote the use of restorative justice in criminal matters. These guidelines outline the principles and practices of restorative justice and provide recommendations for its application within the criminal justice system.
European Forum for Restorative Justice (EFRJ):
EFRJ is an organization that promotes restorative justice throughout Europe. It has developed the "Declaration of the European Forum for Restorative Justice," which highlights the key values and principles of restorative justice and outlines its vision for its widespread use in Europe.
International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP):
IIRP is an organization that provides training and resources in restorative practices. They have developed standards and best practices for implementing restorative justice in various settings, including schools, workplaces, and communities.
Restorative Justice Council (RJC) (formerly
known as the Restorative Justice Consortium):
RJC is a membership body in the United Kingdom that sets out the National Occupational Standards for restorative practice and provides guidance on restorative justice practices in various contexts.
National Association of Community
and Restorative Justice (NACRJ):
NACRJ is a U.S.-based organization that promotes restorative justice. While it does not set specific standards, it provides resources, conferences, and networking opportunities for practitioners to share best practices.
These organizations and guidelines, along with others, have contributed to the development of standards and best practices in the field of restorative justice. However, it's important to note that restorative justice is continually evolving, and different jurisdictions and organizations may have their own specific standards and adaptations based on their unique contexts and needs. As the practice of restorative justice grows and gains recognition worldwide, ongoing research and collaboration will likely lead to further refinement and standardization of best practices.
Standards of Practice: A Helpful "How-To" from our Friends and Colleagues
This document was developed by leading RJ practitioners as a guiding resource for restorative justice practitioners. It covers guiding principles and practice standards to assist the delivery of effective and consistent restorative Justice services to our communities.
Download a copy of Recommended Principles and Standards
for Restorative Justice Providers in Criminal Matters 2016 or read on for the full text below. Note, we did not include page 2 Introduction or Preliminary Observations below.
If you are using this material for your own purposes, please reference the original document and link to this page. If you edit the material please add a disclaimer.
Recommended Principles and Standards for Restorative Justice Providers in Criminal Matters August, 2016
Aaron Lyons and Christianne Paras, Fraser Region Community Justice Initiatives Alana Abramson, Criminology Department, Kwantlen Polytechnic University Gillian Lindquist and Shanna Grant-Warmald, Restorative Justice Victoria Joanne Field, Abbotsford Restorative Justice and Advocacy Association Terri Kalaski, South Okanagan Restorative Justice/Terri L. Kalaski and Associates
The following Standards shall be applied impartially. There shall be no discrimination on grounds of race, sexual orientation, colour, gender, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status
1. Contacting victims
In any case referred to a restorative justice service provider, there shall be a policy to ensure the victim is informed of the service unless:
a) The victim cannot be located
b) The service provider has a substantiated reason to believe the victim does not wish to be contacted
c) The referral is deemed inappropriate for restorative justice Where victim contact has not occurred, the reason shall be documented in the file.
2. Referral Acceptance Criteria
The service provider has a policy which defines referral acceptance and rejection criteria that are consistent with the provisions of Canadian law.
The service provider shall have a transparent and accessible complaint process that allows all participants to express their concerns to an identified party. Consistent with the Victim’s Bill of Rights, this should be done in a manner that preserves the participant’s anonymity and confidentiality, should that be their preference. The complaint process shall be one that has the support of local victim services and justice system personnel, where possible.
4. Staff and volunteer accountability
The service provider shall have a policy concerning staff and volunteer accountability for quality practice and professional development, and a defined review process to be followed in the event of errors and/or harmful practice
Every service provider shall have a system for maintaining hardcopy and/or written notes and records and for upholding the confidentiality of these records, and shall ensure that staff and volunteers are aware of the system and accountable for following it. The policy will define who may have access to the records and for what reasons.
6. Reporting/Case completion
In accordance with confidentiality, the service provider shall have a policy that outlines reporting requirements. This will include reporting procedures to restorative justice participants and referral sources. The policy shall be clearly communicated to all participants.
7. Information Sharing
Each service provider shall have a procedure, in compliance with the law, that outlines the sharing of information by the service provider, and the procedure shall be clearly communicated to all participants.
8. File management
The service provider shall have a policy outlining procedures and timelines for the collection, retention and destruction of all data and case file information, in accordance with the law.
The service provider shall have a process that provides the opportunity for participants to give their feedback on the service they receive. This shall be done in a manner that preserves their anonymity and confidentiality should that be their preference.
10. Information/Preparation meetings
The service provider shall afford all the parties in a restorative justice process the opportunity to meet with the service provider prior to any facilitated dialogue. For victims and accused persons, a minimum of one such meeting shall be conducted in person.
11. Meeting locations
The service provider shall have a policy of asking primary participants for their input in selecting a physical setting for any upcoming preparation meeting or dialogue with other affected parties.
The service provider shall have a policy that outlines minimum requirements for initial and ongoing training of staff and volunteers. The training may be formal and/or informal. The training required shall be such that it will maintain and enhance the knowledge and ethical practice of restorative justice.
13. Impartial Facilitation
The service provider shall instruct facilitators to withdraw from any case in which the facilitator has biases or emotional triggers concerning a participant and/or specific crime that would affect their service. Facilitators also shall be instructed that any prior association with one or more participants should be disclosed to other participants, with an offer to withdraw from the case if that history creates a concern about bias.
14. Informed consent
The service provider shall have a policy to ensure that all parties will participate on the basis of informed consent. All participants shall be made aware of the right to seek legal information at any time while engaged in restorative justice services.
15. Non-Mandatory/Voluntary Participation
The service provider shall have a policy to ensure that each participant understands that participation is voluntary. It shall state clearly that any participant has the option to withdraw from the process at any time, and that participants be given information about the implications of withdrawal.
16. Service Provider/Participant Withdrawal
In the instance of either participant or service provider withdrawal from a restorative justice process, the service provider shall have a policy of communicating its next steps to all participants.
17. Follow up
The service provider shall have a policy to conduct follow-up meetings with primary participants after a facilitated dialogue.
18. Restitution and Reparation
The service provider shall have a written procedure regarding its involvement in the collection and disbursement of restitution payments, and in supporting and monitoring reparation agreements.
19. Flexible service
The service provider shall have a policy of adapting its services to the cultural and individual needs of participants, and outlining a range of options for participation by victims.
20. Reasonable agreements
The service provider shall have a policy that all restorative justice agreements are reasonable and maintain all participants’ safety, rights and dignity, and shall instruct facilitators to uphold these criteria.
21. Information on Other Services
The service provider shall have a policy ensuring that current information on community agencies and support services, including victim services, is shared with participants.
22. Communication timeframes
The restorative justice provider shall have a policy to outline timeframes for communication with all participants, referral sources and other stakeholders throughout all stages of the restorative justice process.