The Fundamental Principle

This a journal entry I made in April. I’d been on the job, learning about restorative justice for not quite five months.

I’ve been thinking about the fundamental principles of restorative practice. I’ve seen many formulations of these principles in various books, and have heard them from various people. But the question I’ve been asking myself is, “What do I see as the fundamental principles?”

It’s a question that hasn’t been particularly easy to answer. One criterion for a good answer is that it will be focussed enough that it is truly about restorative practices. Another criterion is that it should be broad enough to incorporate not just existing practices, but also new (or rediscovered) forms of restorative practice that may emerge in the future.

Here’s an idea for a basic definition of Restortive practice:

“Restorative practice builds communities around networks of right relationships.”

This definition includes the concepts of:
1. Building communities
2. Networks of relationships
3. A particular category of relationship, referred to as “right” relationship.

I think this fits because our interventions are concerned with bringing people into a particular type of experience in which they have the opportunity to restructure (and perhaps even redefine the meaning of) their relationships. We leverage the existence of a crisis (a crime) as the source of energy and motivation for this to occur.

All of the literature I have read agrees that building, restoring, and sustaining community is at the heart of restorative practice. It’s obvious that relationships are at the heart of community. So this definition seems useful to me as a place to work from.

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