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Community in Restorative Justice

Lead Researchers: Jennifer Llewellyn & Bruce Archibald

 Restorative justice theory and practice are committed to the centrality of community in the development and operation of restorative programs and processes. Despite this, "community" is not well defined within the literature or in practice.
Community plays two important roles in restorative justice programs, giving rise to different, although related, sets of issues/questions. First, as reflected in the structure of the Nova Scotia Restorative Justice Program (NSRJP), the principles of restorative justice place a premium on community ownership of restorative justice. The role of community groups/organizations in the delivery of restorative justice raises questions about the appropriate relationship between the community and the state in the operation of the program.
Another fundamental restorative justice commitment is the recognition of community as an integral part in the creation and solution of social conflict. Community must therefore have a role in any restorative justice process. The requirement to include the community, as a party in the restorative justice process, raises a number of significant issues.
This research project will explore the following questions related to the definition and role of community within restorative justice theory and practice:
  • Who or what is "community" for restorative justice? (Exploration of political, administrative, geographical, cultural, ethnic, religious, linguistic dimensions, etc.)
  • What is the relationship between “communities” and “the public”?
  • What does it mean for a program to be community-based?
  • What is the appropriate role for the state in RJ programs? 
  • What is the appropriate relationship between the state and the community in restorative justice programs?
  • For the purposes of RJ processes, who is the community?
  • Should community be defined differently as a participant versus a service deliverer?
  • What role(s) do(es) the community serve in restorative processes?
  • Is this distinct from the role the State ought to play in such processes?
  • What are practitioners to look for in the relevant community(ies) to include in the RJ processes?