Restorative justice is a collaborative, healing-focused response to crime. It is a voluntary process, managed by a trained facilitator. RJ is an opportunity for the victim, defendant and support networks to meet in a safe environment. The conferences are built around the people that they serve - although they may follow a similar pattern, no two conferences are the same. This is because the people and the actions involved are different every time, something that RJ strives to recognise.
Restorative justice is best understood in three parts. The process begins in court when the defendant pleads guilty to the crime. In many cases, the judge must adjourn the proceedings to determine whether RJ would be appropriate in the case. The case is then passed over to the local provider. New Zealand has 27 providers across the country, servicing each of our regions. A list of the provider contact details are available here (link to the contacts page).
Once the local provider has the case, then they will meet separately with the defendant, the victim(s) and any other parties. The facilitator ensures that RJ is appropriate in the circumstances and prepares everyone for the conference.
During the conference, the facilitator assists the victim and offender to talk about the incident and the issues that have emerged. It is an opportunity for the victims to voice how they have been affected by the crime, and ways in which they can move forward from it. For the defendant, it is a chance to tell their side of the story, but to ultimately take responsibility for their actions. The aim of the conference is to create a plan which addresses the needs of all of the participants.
After the conference, the facilitators check in with the participants. They also send a report back to the judge about the conference, which can be factored into sentencing for the defendant.