What is restorative justice and does it work?

Victims meeting perpetrators can have a positive effect for both parties.


Im Sorry. Clayton Perry via Wikimendia Commons


Could you meet the person who committed a crime against you or a loved one face-to-face? And if so, could you find it in your heart to forgive them?

That is what some victims have done through the process of restorative justice.


What is restorative justice? 

Restorative justice is the rehabilitation process where the victim meets the perpetrator of the crime. The victim is given an opportunity to explain the effect of the crime on them and their loved ones. The offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions and to make amends.

A facilitator or mediator leads a restorative justice session, supporting and guiding everyone involved throughout the process. After much groundwork has been done, the offender and victim often meet face-to-face in a controlled environment. In some cases it is done through a series of letters or video interviews.

This video is an excellent case study of how restorative justice works.



‘Face to Face’, is an award-winning radio documentary, made by the Prison Radio Association and Victim Support. It is another powerful example of the impact that restorative justice can have on victims and offenders



Does restorative justice work? 

There is a large body of evidence to suggest that restorative justice is successful in making victims feel better and leads to a reduction in reoffending rates.

In 2001 the UK government commissioned the University of Sheffield to carry out a seven-year research programme to evaluate the practice of restorative justice. In a series of reports they found that:

  • 85 per cent of victims who took part were satisfied with the process.
  • For every £1 spent on restorative justice, £8 were saved by the justice system overall by reducing the frequency of reoffending.
  • There was a 27 per cent drop in the frequency of reoffending following restorative justice sessions.

Further research in neuroscience suggests that the process of restorative justice can help psychopathic criminals develop empathy.



Daniel Reisel’s fascinating lecture shows how psychopaths who have an undeveloped part of the brain called the Amygdala (thought to be key to the experience of empathy), can be rehabilitated to experience empathy more during the process of restorative justice.


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