Who invented restorative justice?

Restorative justice is a concept that has developed over time, and is not attributed to a single inventor or individual. Rather, it is a product of various cultural and historical contexts, shaped by the contributions of many different people and communities. This article will explore the evolution of restorative justice and highlight the key figures who have played a role in its development.

Restorative justice has ancient roots, dating back to civilizations such as Babylon and ancient Greece, where compensation was paid to victims of harm or their families. In the Roman Empire, the concept of “restitutio in integrum” allowed victims of harm to seek compensation for their losses and have the harm repaired. Medieval Europe used “compurgation” or “oath-helping” to resolve disputes, while the Quakers in colonial America practiced a form of restorative justice by resolving disputes through mediation and group decision-making.

Key Articles:

The Origins of Restorative Justice
The History of Restorative Justice
The Use of Restorative Justice around the World
The use of Restorative Practices in Ancient Cultures
Pioneers and turning points in the history of restorative justice

In the modern era, restorative justice began to emerge as a formalized practice in the 1970s in Canada. Mark Yantzi, a Mennonite pastor in Ontario, was one of the pioneers of modern restorative justice. Yantzi was instrumental in developing victim-offender mediation programs, which aimed to provide an alternative to traditional justice practices by bringing together victims, offenders, and community members to discuss the harm that had been caused and develop a plan for restoration. Yantzi’s work was based on the principles of restorative justice, which emphasize the importance of repairing harm, promoting healing, and restoring relationships.

Another influential figure in the development of restorative justice is Howard Zehr, a scholar and practitioner who is often credited with coining the term “restorative justice.” Zehr’s work has focused on promoting restorative justice as a way to create more just and humane responses to crime. He has written numerous books and articles on the topic, and has been involved in the development of restorative justice programs in the United States and internationally.

Kay Pranis is another key figure in the development of restorative justice, particularly in the area of peacemaking circles. Pranis has worked extensively with indigenous communities in North America to develop a model of restorative justice based on traditional indigenous practices. Peacemaking circles are designed to provide a space for open dialogue and discussion, where participants can listen to each other, build relationships, and develop plans for restoration.

While these figures have played a significant role in the development of restorative justice, it is important to recognize that the concept has been shaped by the contributions of many others, including practitioners, policymakers, and advocates. Restorative justice has been the subject of much debate and controversy over the years, with some critics questioning its effectiveness and others advocating for its wider adoption. Nonetheless, the principles of restorative justice, which emphasize the importance of repairing harm and restoring relationships, continue to shape modern criminal justice practices and remain a powerful tool for promoting justice and healing.

1974: The first official victim-offender mediation program is established in Kitchener, Ontario.
1981: The first Family Group Conference (FGC) is held in New Zealand as part of the Children, Young Persons and their Families Act.
1982: The first Community Service Order is introduced in New Zealand, providing an alternative to imprisonment for certain offenses.
1986: The first Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP) in the United States is established in Elkhart, Indiana.
1989: The first Juvenile Justice Act is introduced in Canada, emphasizing the use of restorative justice principles in the treatment of young offenders.
1991: The United Nations establishes the Basic Principles on the Use of Restorative Justice Programmes in Criminal Matters, recognizing the importance of restorative justice practices on a global scale.
1995: The first formal restorative justice program for adult offenders in the United States is established in Vermont.
2002: The International Institute for Restorative Practices is founded in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with the goal of promoting and developing restorative practices worldwide.
2006: The International Restorative Justice Conference is held in Belfast, Northern Ireland, drawing attention to the potential of restorative justice in conflict resolution and peacebuilding.