Introduction to restorative justice colloquy

Date01 December 2018
Published date01 December 2018
Introduction to restorative justice colloquy
Toran Hansen PhD
Conflict Analysis and Dispute Resolution, Salisbury University, Camden, Maryland
Toran Hansen, Conflict Analysis and Dispute Resolution, Salisbury University, Camden, Maryland.
Restorative justice has many points of origin. A specific event that created the momentum to propel
restorative justice to become the field of practice and scholarship that it is today was the initiation of
what came to be known as the Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP) in Elmira, Ontario,
in 1974. The Mennonite Central Committee had a strong influence on this experiment, which had
implications that went well beyond the specific crimes that were addressed. One of the two original
participating offenders recounted much later in life that, on that day, my life changed forever as I
managed to overcome the challenges of a punitive society and turn my life around. Meeting my vic-
tims taught me a valuable lesson in humanity and I've never damaged anyone's property after.
(Morrison, 2013, p. 205). VORP created the basis for envisioning a more relational and humane form
of justice, getting away from the more retributive approach to justice that had come to dominate crim-
inal justice systems around the world. This resonated with those working in the criminal justice sys-
tem, who felt that something important was missing and the results of the system were often
disappointing. This inclination was likewise felt by the survivors of those crimes, who were margin-
alized by the justice system, and many people who were convicted of crimes, who believed that the
justice system had failed them too. This was the birth of the restorative justice movement, although
the philosophy and theory underlying restorative justice have been present in all cultures, if one
explores their roots deeply enough (Umbreit et al., 2005). The diverse cultural origins of restorative
justice are evidenced most obviously by the restorative practices of family group conferencing, which
grew out of Maori traditions in New Zealand, and peacemaking circles, which emerged from First
Nations practices in Canada.
This Colloquy represents a kind of celebration of the expansion of restorative justice into what
we have come to know it as today. It is based on a set of theoretical propositions that were first artic-
ulated by Howard Zehr in his seminal work Changing Lenses (Zehr, 1990). This body of theory illus-
trated that wrongdoing could be effectively addressed by those who were most directly impacted by
it, by addressing their needs, restoring people and relationships, and making things right.However,
for many practitioners of restorative justice, these aren't just theoretical propositions but a philosophi-
cal approach, which has broader implications for life, relationships, and communities. Seen in this
way, restorative justice provides guidance for fostering right relationshipsand peaceful values in
our relationships and day-to-day life in communities where it is clear that people are fundamentally
interconnected with one another. Restorative justice suggests that crime and other forms of
DOI: 10.1002/crq.21243
© 2018 Association for Conflict Resolution and Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Conflict Resolution Quarterly. 2018;36:9597. 95

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