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Restorative Justice Principles in Practice

Lead Researchers: Jennifer Llewellyn & Bruce Archibald
Restorative justice offers an approach to accountability for crime based on the restoration of balanced social relations and reparation of harms and is rooted in values of equality, mutual respect and concern. It uses deliberative processes involving crime victims, offenders, their respective supporters and representative of the broader community under the guidance of authorize and skilled facilitators. This relational approach to justice was apparent in the original goals and objectives of the Nova Scotia Restorative Justice Program (NSRJP).
The four formal goals of the NSRJP are broad in comparison to many criminal justice programs. These goals clearly reflect the conceptual underpinnings of the program and the interests of the criminal justice players involved in its founding. They are: 1) to reduce recidivism, 2) to increase victim satisfaction, 3) to strengthen communities, and, 4) to increase public confidence in the justice system. These goals are supplemented by four more precise "objectives." These objectives are 1) to provide a voice and an opportunity for victims and communities to participate, 2) to repair harms caused by offences, 3) to reintegrate offenders, and 4) to hold offenders accountable in meaningful ways. 
In attempting to achieve the goals and objectives within a relational theory of justice, the NSRJ Protocol lays out a continuum of restorative justice process options. Aside from cautions, there are "restoratively-oriented options" and "restorative justice processes." Under the first heading are accountability session (either individual or group) and adult diversion. Under the heading "restorative justice processes" are victim-offender conferences, restorative conferences, and sentencing circles.
It appears the early practice in the NSRJP was sometimes more consistent with theories of alternative dispute resolution, rather than with a truly relational theory of restorative justice. From the perspective of restorative justice theory, the relatively recently instituted requirement for agencies to adhere to the Nova Scotia Restorative Justice Practice Standard in case management and service delivery is of great interest. This practice standard resulted from a comprehensive effort by restorative justice agencies, with leadership and facilitation from the Department of Justice, to bring NSRJP practice into line with restorative justice principles.
This research project will examine restorative justice practice in Nova Scotia from the perspective of its adherence to and operationalization of restorative justice theory. It will undertake a general overview and explanation of the underlying principles of the NSRJP in order to set the stage for further research. In addition to specific research questions, this project will explore issues related to the translation of theory into practice that emerge throughout the other NSRJ-CURA research.