Federal-Provincial-Territorial Minister of Justice and Public Safety (2018). Principles and Guidelines for Restorative Practice in Criminal Matters. scics.ca/en/product-produit/principles-and-guidelines-for-restorative-justice-practice-in-criminal-matters-2018/ A recent meta-analysis by The Cochrane Collaboration (2013) of the effect of juvenile justice conferences on juvenile delinquency found that there was no significant effect for restorative justice conferences compared to normal court proceedings on the number of re-arrests or the monthly rate of recidivism. They also noted that there is insufficient high-quality evidence on the effectiveness of restorative justice conferences for young offenders.  Restorative justice measures have been part of the Canadian criminal justice system for over forty years and are supported by federal legislation, policies and programs. Here are the steps that traditionally take place in a restorative process. The potential of restorative justice to reduce recidivism is one of the strongest and most promising arguments for its use in prisons. However, there are theoretical and practical limitations that may make restorative justice impossible in prisons. These include difficulties in engaging perpetrators and victims in mediation; controversial influence from family, friends and the community; and the prevalence of mental illness among inmates.  Restorative justice also distinguishes between resulting injuries (caused by the offence itself or its consequences) and contributing injuries (injuries that existed prior to the commission of the offence and may have caused the crime). The resulting injuries can be physical, such as an injury, or emotional, such as embarrassment or shame.
Contributing injuries may include cases where victims of child abuse become victims themselves, or where substance abuse leads to criminal behavior to support addiction. These situations are not an excuse for criminal behavior, but must be addressed in healing attempts. The third meta-analysis of the effectiveness of RJ was conducted in 2006 by Bradshaw, Roseborough and Umbreit. The results of this meta-analysis add empirical support to the effectiveness of RJ in reducing recidivism rates in adolescents. Since then, studies conducted by Baffour in 2006 and Rodriguez (2007) have also concluded that restorative justice reduces recidivism rates compared to the traditional justice system. Bergseth (2007) and Bouffard (2012) supported these findings and also concluded that there may be long-term effects of restorative justice on the traditional justice system; Not only is restorative justice more effective in serious crimes, but restorative justice participants are also less likely to commit serious crimes if they reoffend and stay longer without reoffending. All of these studies have found that RJ is equally effective regardless of breed. Compared to retributive justice and rehabilitation, restorative justice places a much higher value on client involvement.
Both the victim and the perpetrator play an active role. Victims are allowed to ask questions and get answers. Offenders are encouraged to understand the harmful consequences of their behaviour. They acknowledge their guilt and take responsibility for making amends. Community efforts to repair injuries sustained by victims and perpetrators are encouraged. The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission shows how restorative justice can be used to address system-wide crimes affecting large swathes of a group or society.  All participants in a restorative justice process are equally respected. Restorative justice allows victims, perpetrators, family members and friends to come together to discuss how each is affected by a crime or conflict and, if possible, decide how to repair the harm. Victims can share how the crime or conflict affected them and ask questions of the abuser. Learning firsthand how they hurt others often helps abusers take responsibility, while answering questions holds them accountable to those they have harmed. As Braithwaite writes, “court-annexed alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and restorative justice could not be further from philosophical perspective.” While the former aims to address only legally relevant issues and protect the rights of both parties, restorative justice aims to “extend issues beyond legally relevant issues, particularly to the underlying relationships.”  Unlike the traditional justice system in Canada, which seeks to establish punishment for any wrongdoing, as long as it contributes to the satisfaction of the victim and society, RJ focuses on repairing damage and restoring relationships.
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