Restorative justice seeks to put things right after an offense has been committed by focusing on harms and needs, addressing obligations, using inclusive practices, and involving stakeholders such as victims, offenders, and communities. There are many variations of these practices which makes a single definition difficult. However, Howard Zehr attempts to create one in The Little Book of Restorative Justice:
“Restorative justice is a process to involve, to the extent possible, those who have a stake in a specific offense and to collectively identify and address harms, needs, and obligations, in order to heal and put things as right as possible.”
While traditional retributive justice seeks to hold an offender accountable by punishing the person, restorative justice holds the offender accountable by helping him or her understand the impact the action has had on other people and helping the individual to repair the harm that has been done.
Restorative Justice, while not a new phenomenon, is relatively new to the North American justice system. Rooted in ancient tradition and wisdom of New Zealand, restorative practices have found their way into main stream American justice.