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Restorative Justice and Government Compartmentalization of Funding & Services

Lead Researchers: B. Archibald 

Cluster: Principles and Practices 

Last Revised: February 10, 2008

To investigate the challenges for successful achievement of the goals of restorative justice brought about by the compartmentalization of funding and services within government.

To identify, investigate and assess emerging opportunities for cooperation among government agencies and departments in the provision of services and inter-linking processes through restorative justice conferencing. 

As a holistic conception of justice, restorative justice faces challenges from a modern government culture which historically has seen criminal justice as a system distinct from other government responsibilities such as health, education and social services. In principle, restorative conferencing provides a mechanism at the community level whereby the harmful incident which originates the referral to restorative justice can be the trigger for bringing together not only offender, victim and their supporters, but also community representatives including those from relevant health, educational and community service organizations in both the public and private sectors. In this regard, restorative conferencing extends beyond simple case conferencing under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. One impediment to such holistic use of the Restorative Justice Program may reside in the approach of community restorative justice agencies who either lack resources to regularly facilitate full restorative conferences or who conceive of their primary role as narrowly engaging in mediation between victim, offender and their respective families. (These issues will be part of the focus of the NSRJ-CURA companion project on Community Capacity Building and Restorative Justice.) However, there may be parallel impediments to full community-based restorative conferencing where policy makers and operational personnel in the fields of justice, health, education and social services fail to recognize the potential of restorative conferencing to bring together relevant resources from their respective local spheres to meet the needs of all concerned by criminal harms. These players arguably hold key levers to the success of restorative justice and its contribution to crime reduction and crime prevention. 

This research project, while having been planned for some time, gets underway at the outset of a new policy context announced by the Government of the Province of Nova Scotia. In the wake of the Nunn Commission of Inquiry and the Attorney-General’s Task Force on Safer Streets and Communities, the provincial government has made important commitments to coordinating various government resources in response to problems of crime, particularly those among youth. The policy documents entitled Time to Fight Crime Together: Our Strategy to Prevent and Reduce Crime and Our Kids Are Worth It: Strategy for Children and Youth set out co-ordinated and multi-faceted approaches to crime which rest upon the idea of creating linkages between various government departments and agencies. They also recognize, to varying degrees, the potential of restorative justice to help accomplish their goals. This NSRJ-CURA project will explore and assess broad issues for restorative justice theory and practice as related to the transcendence of governmental silos, and do so in this exciting new policy context.