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Restorative Philosophy of Justice




For the ancient Hebrews, ‘justice’ meant “to put a thing in its rightful place.”  In the context of human interrelations the word Justice takes on many nuances in the Old Testament.  Tsādaq (6663) refers to a setting things right (Ex. 23:6, 7; Ps. 82:3), to be in the right, and most importantly as a legal term, “to be restored.”  Tsedāqāh (6666) is derived from Tsādaq and means rectitude, rightness, justice (divine or human).  It also refers to “Fairness” in the sense of “what is good for all parties involved.” The word Tsedeq (6664) draws from both these words and refers to both equality (Lev. 19:15) and rectitude (Job 8:3; Ps. 15:2). Tsedeq or Justice is the display of equality, of a healthy balance and fairness among disputants, the aggrieved, or an offender and victim. It refers to fairness in the sense of what is good for all parties.  Justice in the Biblical sense then is “to do what is in the best interest of all those involved—without partiality.”  The Scriptures teach a Restorative Justice that puts things, or restores them, in their rightful place, both emotionally, interpersonally, and socially.  The Greeks followed this ancient perception.  In The Greek Experience, C.M. Bowra says, “The word dike, which we translate ‘justice,’ seems to be derived from the boundaries of a man’s land and conveys metaphorically the notion that he should keep within his own sphere and respect that of his neighbor.” (page 99)  The violation of another person is an ethical valuation and in the act itself a failure to respect what rightfully belongs to another.  Restorative Justice is the divine design to put all parties—the criminal, the victim and the state—in their rightful place, and in so doing restore their rightful relationship.


In the modern sense of the word, Justice is the calling forth of one to answer.  A suspect is summoned before the judicial bar to give an account for some alleged behavior deemed criminal or offensive to the collective conscience of the community.  Text Box: “The danger of incarceration for purposes of social melioration is that of ‘role dispossession’.  If the prison experience, and for that matter, rehabilitative methods and programs, do not provide and protect certain key elements in the life of the offended, role dispossession may (and is most likely to) occur, and the result will be that the offender reenters society no better –if not worse– than when he went in.  At all costs, this role dispossession must be prevented by the System.”

Where justice exercises Due Process, it includes the examination of the evidence to determine the facts and the evaluation of these facts in light of the law.  If a defendant’s behavior cannot be mitigated or is found in violation of the law, Justice rectifies the offense by taking action against the perpetrator to ensure the behavior, and the violation, will not happen again.  Justice, in all its differing expressions and functions, exists to keep social order by restoring every citizen to their rightful place.  Justice rectifies the offense by speaking to the victim that it has an advocate, to the Community that it will not be tolerated, and to the offender that it must never happen again.  In a civilized society, Justice carries no sense of intentional harm for the offender.


In the three plays of his Oresteia, Aeschylus addresses in symbolic stageplay a novel idea that was emerging among the Athenians,—the problem, danger and folly of retributive (blood vengeance) justice. If justice is left to the families of the murdered, a vicious cycle of blood feuds will ensue as each side avenges a death that in turn warrants retribution from the other family and there is no end to the blood-shed. “When [Aeschylus] produces Apollo and Athene on the stage and makes them debate with the Furies, the powers of order and sanity are pitted against a primeval, frenzied thirst for avenging blood.” (The Greek Experience, C.M. Bowra)  Justice is derelict and culpable if it seeks to punish rather than prevent violations of its citizens.  A retributive philosophy of justice that provides a punitive response to crime has contributed to the culture of crime, social apathy and the current dilemmas in criminal justice. As a society, we can no longer afford to reject a restorative philosophy of justice.  Restorative Justice is the only philosophy that elicits the response from the offender we as a society want and need.  Restorative Justice is also the only philosophy that keeps us from becoming the very thing that we detest.

Text Box: “Socialization is the process by which we come to think and act appropriately for our society…
Socialization is not only reinforcement, but also the very subtle influence of the opportunities offered by the socializes.”
(Ten Questions, A Sociological Perspective, page 136,Second Edition, Joel M. Charon


Retribution as punishment is a human temptation and response.  Restoration is a divine response.  A restorative Philosophy of Justice exudes the wisdom of God.  It has as its objective an ideal higher than the self-serving (blood-lust) vengeance.  Its objective is the restoration of offenders to a proper place as law-abiding, productive citizens of society by constructively utilizing incarceration and other life-reform measures to redirect errant offenders.  Retributive Justice gratifies the self, Restorative Justice serves and seeks the best interest of the offender; precisely the altruism our laws ask citizens to display.  Restorative justice exemplifies the behavior it wants the offender to adopt and emulate.


A Restorative Philosophy of Justice does not promote a liberal ideology of passivity toward Text Box: 22 If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, 24 Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.  Exodus 21:22-25 (KJV)

And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.	Deuteronomy 19:21

crime and offenders.  It fully and effectively supports the stiffest penalties necessary to confront crime and protect society.  However, with restoration rather than retribution of the offender as the objective, Restorative Justice seeks for and identifies those offenders who have been positively affected and influenced by the consequences of their crime.


A Restorative Philosophy of Justice recognizes that the consequences of an offender’s crime can and does positively affect and influence their lives.  Though life-reform does not occur in the lives of the majority of incarcerated offenders, the refreshing news is that under a restorative philosophy of justice (which operates under the expectation and desire to see restoration result from the tragic effects of crime), the system that witnesses so much devastation can find light at the end of an otherwise dismal and dirty business.


A Restorative Philosophy of Justice seeks for, identifies and recognizes that redemption and transformation can spring and result Text Box: “You cannot teach a boy to use his strength by stripping him of it.”
John Eldredge, Wild at Heart, page 79

from the most tragic and devastating consequences of crime.  This anticipation and commitment to the restoration of lives affected by crime underpins the philosophy of Restorative Justice.  Imagine a philosophy that has us critically looking for the good and the promising to emerge from tragedy, and actively working to restore those lives.


As an organized force of one, the Restorative Justice Network and synchronizes its respective services, resources and aid in a coordinated effort designed to effectively utilize and fully serve the purpose for which it was organized. 




“After years of living in a cage, a lion no longer even believes it is a lion…and a

man no longer believes he is a man.” Wild at Heart, John Eldredge, page 41