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Restorative Justice: Who does Restorative Justice restore?

Many things that we've been able to form fancy terms for have existed way before us. Native Americans have been embracing these practices in ways that did not call for policies and laws but rather only understanding. Nothing we do nor think of is 'new' but sometimes only 'refined' and 'reworked'.

The practice of Restorative Justice is one that is way more than punishment. In fact, it does not even consider punishment but rather consequence to the actions and deeds done. The basis is one that relies on harmony and balance. It links justice and spirituality, seeing all people as people, separating their actions from themselves- which ensures that each person is treated with dignity and respect.

The Restorative Justice Council explains that, "Restorative Justice brings those harmed by crime or conflict and those responsible for the harm into communication, enabling everyone affected by a particular incident to play a part in repairing the harm and finding a positive way forward. This is part of a wider field called restorative practice."

Restorative Justice works for victims, survivors and perpetrators but it does not and should not center the perpetrator. It does not ask "what is the crime?", but rather "who was affected?" and what can be done to help them cope. Accountability plays an important part in restoration. Perpetrators must hold themselves accountable. No one can make them do it. Accountability is the realisation and acceptance of understanding that was wrong was done and harm was caused and so responsibility is taken.

Victims and survivors must be protected. This protection ensures that there isn't any type of repeat action by the offender. The Western World has a justice system that is designed in a way to remove perpetrators completely from society without rehabilitation and then released back into it after their time has been served. Restorative Justice seeks to bring about restoration of worthiness and the understanding of what harm was done and how to be better.

Healing cannot come without addressing the wrong done and the harm it brought. Often times, persons skip over the process of accountability and consequence, rushing towards healing. Healing takes time.

What now?

A lot.

We've seen how our criminal justice system continues to fail us. Cases go unsolved daily and leaves behind it, a trail of corpses and trauma. At some point in time, those in power must ask themselves, "what now?" What else should be done to ensure that victims and survivors begin to heal and feel safe again and what else should be done to ensure perpetrators do not repeat offenses and work towards becoming better human beings that do not cause harm?

The death penalty is not the answer. It goes against Restorative Justice and it is not a deterrent to persons who commit crime. It only adds to the culture of violence and leaves bodies stacked high.

Restorative Justice must be proactive rather than reactive. We must ask ourselves, how do we help persons to unlearn harmful thoughts and practices? How do we shift and remove blame from victims and survivors? How do we instil a culture of community and love? How do we ensure that we hold ourselves and others accountable and guide them to wanting to be and see better?

Meeting with violence with violence isn't our fault. But it is our duty to ensure we transform our now and future. Our colonial past filled with slavery and indentureship, plays an important part in why we exist in the way that we do today. But we can overcome it, one day at a time, one day, together.

Interested in reading more, here are some resources:

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