Restorative justice is a response to crime and violence that shifts the focus from punishment to "responsibility, rehabilitation and restoration." It holds offenders accountable even as it opens paths to healing, especially with victims. And it addresses the needs of everyone impacted by crime: victims, offenders, families, communities, and those working in the criminal justice system.
The practices of restorative justice are centuries old. They were present in the days of the early church and reflect the most basic tenets of Catholic Social Teaching:
- Human life and dignity are sacred.
- Our participation in community is a responsibility and right.
- We are called to strengthen and nurture the family.
- We respect human rights.
- The needs of the poor and vulnerable come first.
- We pursue peace and justice.
- We care for all of God’s creation.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement in December 2000 that summarizes the Catholic perspective on crime and criminal justice.