Restorative justice and restorative practice

A summary of evidence relating to restorative justice and restorative practice for victims and offenders.

Restorative Justice (RJ) and restorative practice is an approach which can meet the needs of both victims and offenders. The primary aim is victim-focused and to repair harm wherever this has occurred.

There are many different applications of restorative practice in prisons, including:

  • victim-offender conferencing, if appropriate, the perpetrator and victim of the same offence meet in a face to face conference - they may be accompanied by family and friends of both parties as supporters and a trained facilitator
  • conflict resolution between offenders following a violent incident
  • family conferencing, and pre and post sentence work

Restorative practice service should adhere to the principles of Restorative Justice:

  • restoration – the primary aim of restorative practice is to address and repair harm
  • voluntarism – participation in restorative processes is voluntary and based on informed choice
  • neutrality – restorative processes are fair and unbiased towards participants
  • safety – processes and practice aim to ensure the safety of all participants and create a safe pace for the expression of feelings and views about harm that has been caused
  • accessibility – restorative processes are non-discriminatory and available to all those affected by conflict and harm
  • respect – restorative processes are respectful to the dignity of all participants and those affected by the harm caused

There is little evidence about effectiveness for:

Restorative Justice with people convicted of sexual or domestic violence offences.

Activity which does not bring the victim and offender together in a face to face conference. For example, shuttle mediation or exchange of letters between victim and offender. Sometimes, however, the risk assessment may show it would be unsafe for participants to meet or the victim may make an informed choice not to meet. In these cases the provider would offer an alternative form of communication, should participants wish.

Victim awareness or empathy programmes (these are sometimes called restorative justice courses). These aim to teach people to understand the impact of their crimes on victims and the community. Some include a meeting between the offender and a surrogate or proxy victim.

Further reading

Restorative Justice Conferencing (RJC) Using Face-to-Face Meetings of Offenders and Victims: Effects on Offender Recidivism and Victim Satisfaction. A Systematic Review (Campbell Collaboration 2013)

Better Outcomes through Victim-Offender Conferencing Summarises evidence Suggests targeting to have greatest impact on victim satisfaction and reducing reoffending. (2012)

Wait-til-eight: an essential start-up guide for restorative justice schemes implementation (2013)

NOMS victim-offender conferencing service specification Minimum delivery requirements for Restorative Justice when delivered by prisons and National Probation Service.

Restorative Justice Action Plan for the Criminal Justice System (CJS) Ministry of Justice vision for good quality, victim-focused Restorative Justice to be available at all stages of the CJS in England and Wales.

The Restorative Justice Council website Guidance on RJ for: women offenders; serious and complex cases; delivery in custody and community. Meeting the Needs of Victims Criminal justice inspectorates report on the quality of services provided to victims (2015)

The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime Victims of adult offenders can receive information on RJ. Victims of young offenders are offered RJ where available and appropriate (MoJ 2015)

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This page summarises the available evidence base and is informed by independent academic peer review. It does not represent Ministry of Justice or Government policy.

Published 15 May 2019