Miller (2008) defines Restorative Justice as an approach to justice that centers on the repair of the harm revealed or caused by a criminal behavior. The offenders are encouraged to be responsible in repairing the harm they have committed either by return the stolen property, doing community work, or apologizing. Restorative justice is concerned with how crimes hurt and destroy people's relationships within a community. A committed crime is perceived to be against a community as well as a victim and not just a misdemeanor against a given country or state. So as to ensure highest rates of offender accountability and victim satisfaction, a restorative justice must foster a dialogue between the stakeholders (Cornwell et al., 2006).
The three related conceptions regarding restorative justice include encounter conception, reparative conception, and transformative conception. According to encounter conception, restorative justice is concerned with the programs bring the stakeholders together so as to make an agreement on how react to crime. With the reparative conception, restorative justice is seen as a theory of preventing and healing the harm that is caused due to crime. According to the transformative conception, restorative justice is regarded as a peace-building process that involves a dialogue and an agreement between the stakeholders as far as criminal justice is concerned (Cornwell et al., 2006). In this discussion comparisons will be made between the forms of restorative justice in Canada and criminal justice in the United States.
In Canada most crimes are solved by the mediation between the victims and offenders, which involves a face-to-face type of negotiation between the victim and offender (Miller, 2008). The needs of the victim, for instance needing to be consulted, are the primary focus. The offenders are given an opportunity to repair the harm they caused to their victims. The reparation includes monetary compensation, an explanation concerning the occurrence of the crime, and an apology. The offenders are deeply affected due to mediation experience but get a positive motivation as they make reparations. The mediation meetings are always effective since the skilled mediators are involved in the facilitation of conversations. The participation at every stage of the mediation process is always voluntary. The mediation process is accompanied by confidentiality so that the decisions of National Parole Board are not influenced.
In the United States, criminal justice system is still used to charge the criminal offenders (Roberts, 2005). Criminal justice system is defined as a set of social and legal institutions used to enforce the criminal laws by following a set of practical rules and limitations (Cole & Smith, 2007). This system is characterized by the use of harsh punishments on the offenders and locking them up in prisons. With criminal justice system, the offender is accountable to taking a punishment instead of understanding the effects of the crime on the victim and in compensating them. Criminal justice system depends on proxy professions such as lawyers and judges, whereas the restorative justice system involves the participants directly. According to criminal justice, the response is centered on the past behavior of an offender and not on the harmful effects due to offender's behavior (Roberts, 2005).
According to Hadley (2001), the Victim-Offender Mediation Program (VOMP) has been well established in Canada. The VOMP centers on dealing with the issues of healing and accountability for those affected or involved in traumatic criminal activities. The mediator is never perceived as an intrusive intervener but a facilitator. The staff of VOMP plays their role as supportive and respectful facilitators during a therapeutic dialogue. The cautious and lengthy evaluation and preparation processes are characteristically therapeutic and are informed by current clinical practice and theories regarding the treatment offender and trauma recovery of the victim. It has been formally established that VOMP is the most successful tool in accomplishing the goal of enhancing a healing experience for the offender and victim (Hadley, 2001).