While the traditional retributive justice system
focuses on the crime and the offender, restorative justice works on the world
of relationships that has been wounded by the evil committed, involving the
victim, the offender and the community in this itinerary, if they freely offer
their availability. It has been defined as justice that heals (instead of that
punishes) or justice of the encounter. A justice whose guiding questions are no
longer “who is the guilty party?” “with what sanctions must he/she be punished?”
but rather “what happened to you, to us?” “what can be done to repair the evil
and damage committed?”
All studies confirm that RJ has a strong impact on the
people who experience it and, particularly in the field of criminal justice,
profound changes can be seen in offenders as evidenced by a marked decrease in
recidivism rates. RJ, therefore, can make an important contribution to the
quality of life in our cities and neighbourhoods.
Is the restorative
justice approach a “Christian” approach? Why do you think it is particularly
valid in the present context of the Society of Jesus and the Church?
RJ currently goes back to the criminologist Howard
Zehr and the first experiences of this method in the Eastern Mennonite
University. There is a recognizable Christian trace in the proposal and thought
of Zehr but RJ was born outside of ecclesial circles.
believe that its characteristics can be particularly valuable and fruitful
today for the Church and for the Society precisely because, to quote an
important work of Zehr, they oblige us to “change lenses” and see relationships
and the possibility of healing wounds differently. I am thinking of the many
internal tensions within our communities, of our apostolic environments
disturbed or blocked by disagreements or crossed vetoes. I am also thinking of
situations such as abuses in which there have been serious violations of the
integrity and dignity of the person with serious repercussions on a whole world
of relationships, personal, social and even institutional.