“Restorative justice” defines a significant part of our organization’s name: Restorative Justice Housing Ontario. Together, the two words signify making up for harm caused by crime and working towards positive and just relationships within communities.
When a person commits a crime, he or she does more than break a law. The crime harms a community’s sense of safety, its trust, or its personal or collective property. Restorative justice highlights the central concern for victims’ needs. It begins with a concern for repairing the harm suffered by victims as much as possible, both concretely and symbolically.
Restorative justice also recognizes that the community requires more than time in prison to right these damages. The community needs to be assured, in many small ways, that a change has occurred for the better. Restorative justice considers the harm done and promotes the engagement of a wide range of community stakeholders, not just the direct victims of the crime.
Finally, restorative justice is concerned with the person who has committed a crime and who needs to restore his or her right-relationship with the community. It responds to the real need of housing for people who have been incarcerated. It means that the ex-offender takes responsibility and is accountable for the harm done – in practical terms wherever possible.
In practice, the Restorative Justice Housing Ontario model means that people will learn to live together in a home, within a community, without disturbance. They will participate in building up the community by some form of informal community service, such as shovelling their own sidewalks in winter if they live in a residential area, or planting flowers or shrubs to help make the neighbourhood attractive. Third, they may take part in volunteer service groups.
Restorative justice is thus a collaborative process. It encourages offenders, victims and communities to work together to heal, find solutions and take steps toward positive change.
Restorative Justice Housing Ontario makes it possible for former inmates to participate in re-establishing their lives in a way that makes a contribution to the community.