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Lesson 8: Legal Issues

Restorative justice grew out of several movements of the past 25 years: the informal justice movement, the victim rights movement and the restitution/diversion movement (designed to alleviate the burden put on the judicial system by increasingly incarcerative responses to crime). As its antecedents did, restorative justice has raised several legal issues related to its implementation as a system of criminal justice. Among these are jurisprudential concerns, victims' and offenders' rights, and procedural issues. More specifically, in this section:

  • due process deals with the procedural protections traditionally accorded offenders, and the extent to which restorative processes provide those protections--
  • presumption of innocence assesses the restorative justice system's ability to preserve the presumption that the person is innocent, unless, and until, the person's guilt is proven;
  • the right to a fair trial/coercion explores the degree to which the offender retains the right to a formal trial in a restorative justice system, and the extent to which the coercive forces of such a system would be so overwhelming as to essentially compel the offender to take part in a restorative process;
  • the right to assistance of counsel deals with the question of what role attorneys play in a restorative process, and the offender's ability to safeguard his rights vis a vis assistance of legal counsel;
  • equal protection/discrimination describes the potential for the restorative justice system to even-handedly administer justice without regard to race, gender, religion, national origin, social standing, etc., and raises as a concern the inequities that could exist based on these and other factors;
  • victims' rights discusses the assertion (and its equal protection implications) that victims are interested parties who should have standing and should be granted rights accordingly; and
  • proportionality examines the goal for the traditional system in which similar offenses result in similar outcomes to satisfy a sense of fairness, and the notions of fairness within a restorative system which are based on consensus of agreement given a range of alternatives--e.g., participant satisfaction.



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Slide Shows

Changing Lenses
A profound metaphor for understanding justice (Howard Zehr).
Justice that Heals 
Talks about the wounds of crime and how to heal them.

Introductory Tutorials

An introductory tutorial on the worldwide movement of restorative justice.

What is Restorative Justice?

Series of slide shows describing various aspects of restorative justice.


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Briefing Paper

This paper provides a  definition of restorative justice,  processes, and outcomes. The paper is available in English, French, Spanish, and Russian

Restorative Justice Learning Tool

provided by the Mennonite Central Committee. (requires flash player)