Restorative Justice is a process of healing from the harm caused by another person's actions. This process brings together, to the fullest extent possible, everyone who has been impacted by the specific harm. The goal is both accountability and healing in order to repair the harm and provide the opportunity to those most directly affected, to dialogue, problem solve and rebuild their lives and if warranted, their relationships.
The practice of Restorative Justice began in the mid 1970's and originated from the ancient concept of "Teshuva" (literally meaning repentance). This Old Testament process involves: Regret, taking full responsibility without excuses, acknowledgement of harm to others, reconciliation with the victim(s), making amends or repairing the harm, and resolve to change.
The use of Restorative Justice has evolved in the past several decades from a vision to a social movement used in a variety of settings such as: The juvenile and adult criminal justice system, school systems, workplaces, organizations dealing with violence and therapeutic settings where reconciliation and healing are part of treatment. In fact, Restorative Justice is listed under "best practice" therapeutic models with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Programs (OJJDP).
At the Birmingham Family Therapy Clinic (BFTC), we are proud to have incorporated the restorative justice process in our work since our doors opened in 1988. Many of our clients are dealing with the effects of sexual abuse and/or physical violence. These clients, especially our youngest, have taught us importance of using Restorative Justice to rebuild lives with resiliency, compassion and hope.
In 2009, the BFTC was awarded a federal grant through the Department of Justice to treat 15 families (victims/survivors, offenders and family members) with confirmed intra and/or extra familial sexual abuse and where contact was allowed between family members. Through this yearlong grant, we effectively treated clients working through sexual abuse, teaching constructive resolutions to emotional/behavioral challenges and lowering recidivism (relapse rate) of sexual abuse violence. Our program involved both therapeutic treatment and evaluation. Clients who participate in our Restorative Justice Project receive individual, couple, family and group therapy as part of treatment. In addition, there is a restorative justice component that promotes healing between offenders and victims. The successful results are included in our final Department of Justice report below.