By Alex Mikulich, Ph.D.
Restorative Justice (RJ) is an alternative criminal justice practice that emphasizes repairing the harm of unjust behavior. As Howard Zehr, a leading founder of the RJ movement explains, RJ emerged in the mid-1970s to address three problems of how the traditional system: 1) fails victims, 2) does not call offenders to account, and 3) does not address broader community needs.1
First, too often, the criminal justice system fails victims. Imprisoning a perpetrator does little for the ongoing suffering of victims. The U.S. bishops lament how the system “neglects the hurt and needs of victims or seeks to exploit their anger and pain to support punitive policies.”2 In human dignity the bishops call the faithful “to stand with victims in their hurt and in their search for healing and genuine justice. This includes, of course, the children of the incarcerated, who themselves are seriously harmed by their parents’ misdeeds.”3
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