At its core, restorative justice defines justice as honouring the inherent worth of all human beings regardless of who they are or what they do. It accepts that people are relational beings whose well-being is nurtured or diminished through our interconnectedness (Pranis, 2007; Vaandering, 2011).  Community is a vital part of our individual lives. To that end, restorative justice serves to not only promote healing of harm or brokenness within relationships, but believes we need to work proactively in nurturing the inherent self worth of the individual within that relational sphere – no one can be authentically human while preventing others from being so (Friere, 2000). These are the seeds that we all need to grow in a healthy and balanced way within society, whether that be within families, within communities, within the justice system or within the education system.  This requires that we become aware of the lenses we wear as we live/look at life. We are encouraged to be individualistic, seeking what is best for us. Restorative justice asks that we wear lenses that see our worth and interconnectedness. Aglasses practical way to examine if we are truly accepting and supportive of each other is to filter our actions through a set of 3 questions:

          Am I honouring?                           Am I measuring?                     What message am I sending?

After engaging with people in any situation, I can ask myself if I honoured (supported, encouraged, challenged respectfully, listened, etc.)  them as I interacted, if I measured (judged, ignored, used, assumed, dominated, etc.) them, and putting myself in their shoes, what message from me did they leave with after our time together. Restorative justice requires that we focus on relationships before rules and behavior, on people before policies, on honouring before measuring, on well-being before success.  A stance where we turn from judgement  to a sense of wonder allows education to be proactive, rather than reactive  with  pedagogy  rooted in respect, concern, and dignity in relationships.

Harm will occur.  When it does, it is important to remember that the well-being of the people has been affected. Thus, a space needs to be provided where dialogue can occur in a safe place that respects the dignity of the individuals and the relationships affected. This is done by supporting all involved as they recognize, and then work to repair and rebuild relationships in a non-blaming atmosphere to the point where each can once again become fully contributing members of their communities. In so doing we  ask different questions:

  • Not, “what rules were broken?” but “who has been hurt?”
  • Not, “who did it?” but “what are the needs?”
  • Not, “what do they deserve?” but “what needs to be done for the harm to be repaired?” (Zehr, 1997)