With sights trained on transforming the justice system in Canada, Dalhousie University has officially launched the Restorative Research, Innovation & Education Lab (RRIELab). The lab is the first of its kind, aiming to help establish effective, proactive restorative justice initiatives in Canada and around the world. The approach focuses on individuals and communities to bring meaningful and lasting changes to justice.
Why Restorative Justice is Necessary
The need for restorative justice is not a new phenomenon. The support and opportunity to address it, however, has more support than ever before. Systemic and historical injustices have marked the existing systems, leading to heavy criticism and failing to deliver their full potential benefit to individuals and their communities. Restorative justice, on the other hand, has proven favourable, with higher rates of victim satisfaction and lower risks of reoffending.
Some form of restorative justice is already in use in 80+ countries around the globe. These alternative sentencing options hold the offender responsible, encouraging rehabilitation while minimizing the risks to communities and individuals alike.
The current system tends to focus on punishment over rehabilitation. A prison sentence is a band-aid solution, that often escalates problems, rather than resolving them. While the convicted individual is punished, there is little in place to prevent the offence from occurring again, or to curb similar offences. With the stigma of a criminal record, employment is difficult, resentment is high, and opportunities are limited. As a result, recidivism is higher than where alternative sentencing is used.
Using restorative justice presents the opportunity to create a fairer justice system for all involved. It helps to rehabilitate the offender more effectively, offers greater satisfaction for the victim, and minimizes the risk to the community.
3 Pillars of Restorative Justice
Restorative justice is built on 3 pillars. 1. Harms and Needs; 2. Obligations; 3. Engagement
Harms & Needs
This first pillar examines the harm. It examines who was harmed by the criminal actions, and what harm was caused. From there, it considers what needs to be done to repair the harm, so that those involved can heal and move forward.
The next step is to establish who should be held accountable for the harm done. It holds the offender responsible and examines what they can do to repair the harm.
Finally, there is the engagement pillar. This is where the offenders and victims fill their roles in the justice process. Any steps required to repair harm are dictated by the justice system and carried about by the relevant parties.
Role of the RRIELab
Creating an international program for restorative justice is a big undertaking, and drawing meaningful results will take time. The RRIELab, however, is positioned to play an important role in the creation of a more effective, fair justice system. The lab will play several roles in pursuit of that goal.
- Strategic Support: In the application of restorative justice.
- Research: Researching innovative opportunities to improve the outcomes and impact of the justice system.
- Education & Training: To teach the importance, understanding, and implementation of restorative justice.
- Supporting Collaboration: Helping governments and communities work together for more effective justice.
- Establishing a network of experts: A global network of experts to share, build, and improve upon research/knowledge.
Defending Criminal Justice
William Jaksa is a Toronto criminal defence lawyer who is dedicated to defending the rights and dignity of his clients. If you, or a loved one, are facing criminal charges he will help you understand the criminal defence process, your options, and their potential outcomes.
Contact William Jaksa today for your consultation.