Restorative Justice FAQ

What is restorative justice? 

Restorative justice is a philosophy that understands crime and harm as violations of people and relationships. The criminal justice system focuses on what law was broken, who is guilty, and how they should be punished. Restorative justice is concerned about who was impacted, what their needs are, and how to move forward in a good way with one another. Restorative justice is rooted in values of human dignity, right-relationship, healing, accountability, and encounter.

What are restorative practices? 

Restorative practices are formal or informal processes that allow those most directly impacted by a crime (harmed persons, responsible persons, and community members) to determine ways to repair the harm that was done. Strongly influenced by indigenous ways of life, restorative practices such as victim-offender dialogue, community conferencing, and circle process offer practical approaches to building a culture of encounter and accompaniment in the criminal justice system, as well as parish, family, and civic life. These practices are helpful community-building tools, which can be used even when no direct harm is evident.

What does the Catholic Church say about restorative justice? 

In 2000, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote in their pastoral letter Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice that “a Catholic approach leads us to encourage models of restorative justice that seek to address crime in terms of the harm done to victims and communities, not simply as a violation of law.” While the Catechism of the Catholic Church does not name “restorative justice” specifically, all seven themes of Catholic Social Tradition are consistent with the principles of restorative justice.