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NOTE: Some of what follows is excerpted from Chapter One of Justice That Transforms: Volume 1

WN: From a Canadian vantage point, Dr. Herman Bianchi, a Dutch criminologist, is one of the three “grandfathers” (if one must use that term) chronologically of Restorative Justice, together with Mark Yantzi and Dave Worth, the first and longstanding Restorative Justice practitioners/theorists in Canada. Though the term predates all three, and other related practices were taking place in the United States and elsewhere. There are issues in any event about referring to “Restorative Justice” as though a unified “movement” with a single “grandfather” or “grandmother.”

Contemporary Western Restorative Justice theory and practice were not first developed by Americans, though they have greatly contributed to its worldwide expansion. In particular Howard Zehrs name stands out in the earlier and subsequent years; but not as theory originator, or first practitioner. A hagiographic myth assigns the term “grandfather” to one person, when there is in fact no such.

There had been numerous previous publications in Dutch by Dr. Bianchi. One such was the Restorative Justice classic, Justice As Sanctuary, which had been published in Dutch (Gerechtigheid als Vrijplaats) in 1985, and was eventually translated into English in 1994 through American criminologist Harold Pepinsky. A year later Dr. Bianchi co-edited Abolitionism: Towards a Non-Repressive Approach Towards Crime. My contribution was the final chapter seen here. The idea of “paradigm shift” is borrowed from Howard Zehr, in turn from Thomas Kuhn.1

Bianchi’s writings have seldom received their rightful due in relation to Restorative Justice theory. He lent his scholarly weight as well all through the early years of Restorative Justice to “The International Conference on Penal Abolition (ICOPA)”—see more below.

Dan Van Ness’ and Karen Heetderks Strong’s 1998 seminal Restoring Justice was comprehensive in its historically contextualizing Restorative Justice, and more encompassing than Zehr’s 1990 Changing Lenses. Dan’s impact on the early years of development was huge. His was also the first major website (under Justice Fellowship, an arm of Prison Fellowship), and it posted synopses of eventually thousands of resources.

Years ago I read about two persons on a crowded subway train in New York, where one happened to overhear the other say “Frodo” in conversation with someone else. The story goes that he literally dove across the sea of people, exclaiming, “You’re reading Tolkien too?!” In the early years of Restorative Justice, to hear someone in the criminal justice system use that term became a kind of instant bonding. Then the term began to appear in programs of criminal justice gatherings. And finally, emblazoned boldly on their sides were government-funded Restorative Justice “ocean liners” programs, when until then we few had to be content with small speedboats to spread the news—often enough early on running out of gas, then eventually at times initially swamped by the new ocean-going vessels . . .

And though there are other claimants,2 Mark Yantzi’s and David Worth’s “Kitchener Experiment/The Elmira Case” in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada became the most replicated program model, arguably the first.3

There were also significant theoretical contributions and practices from Canadian aboriginal communities that take Restorative Justice back millennia—likewise in indigenous cultures worldwide—though again Dr. Richards negates ahistorical romanticizing about the claimed complete absence of retributive justice elements in those ancient-to-modern cultures. Canadians Crown Attorney Rupert Ross and Judge Barry Stuart are key early theorists and practitioners in this area.

A year after Zehr’s book appeared,4 Harold Pepinsky and Richard Quinney edited and published Criminology As Peacemaking (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1991.), directly challenging the entire warmaking terminology and practice in criminal justice,5 calling alternatively for commitment to “make peace with crime and criminals [which absence] is reflected in the paucity of our daily personal relations, where we live by domination and discipline, where forgiveness and mercy are seen as naïve surrender to victimization. The essays in this volume propose peacemaking as an effective alternative to the ‘war’ on crime. They range from studies of the intellectual roots of the peacemaking tradition to concrete examples of peacemaking in the community, with special attention to feminist peacemmaking traditions and women’s experience.”6

It was from that amazing book that I learned ever after to describe Restorative Justice at its simplest to be a peacemaking, not a warmaking response to crime—one quite expandable to all brokenness in human and international relationships. Pepinsky and Quinney belong to the panoply of early Restorative Justice “grandfathers.” They also connected this strand to the wider peace movements historically and around the world.

One chapter below, “Is There a Place for Dreaming?,” picks up on the international implications of Restorative Justice, and was a presentation based on it that was initially made at St. Paul University in September 2007. I was the first “Scholar in Residence” at the Conflict Studies Department there, thanks to an invitation from Professor Vern Redekop. I spent a delightful five months of research and writing.

Another early influence were the many writings of Nils Christie. I first learned of this remarkable Norwegian criminologist through a program in 1993 by CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Commission) Ideas Renaissance Man and broadcaster David Cayley, entitled: “Crime Control as Industry.” I wrote at the time to CBC Ideas to express my gratitude for the outstanding three-hour set of programs. I had already read by then Dr. Christie’s classic “Conflicts as Property,” and his 1981 Limits to Pain. He continued to pen many significant works all within the Restorative Justice purview. Perhaps his most notable publication was the same title as Cayley’s broadcast: Crime Control as Industry: Towards Gulags, Western Style?—in which he posited that not crime, but crime control is the real societal danger in Western democracies.7 With subsequent editions, Dr. Christie removed the question mark . . . He was also a prison/penal abolitionist (see below).

David Cayley as well, through numerous CBC Ideas broadcasts about crime and punishment issues, and a significant book publication, The Expanding Prison: The Crisis in Crime and Punishment and the Search for Alternatives, was an early Canadian promoter of Restorative Justice. Criminologist Liz Elliott told me that Cayley’s book was one of the finest she had ever read in the field. Though David was not a criminologist! Even better for me: since my 1993 correspondence with him in response to the Nils Christie broadcast, he has been a friend.

Also, though more tangentially, René Girard should be mentioned as significantly influencing early Restorative Justice theory, both over against notions of retributive justice, and more generally in helping early practitioners wrestle with generic violence in every culture, and the way out. Vern Redekop noted above, another early Restorative Justice theorist who is today a worldwide foremost scholar on conflict studies, peacemaking, and René Girard, authored the book most widely distributed of 14 “New Perspectives on Crime and Justice: Mennonite Central Committee Occasional Papers, 1984–1994,8 edited by Dave Worth, Howard Zehr and me. It was entitled Scapegoats, the Bible, and Criminal Justice: Interacting with René Girard. Girard himself gave his imprimatur to this publication.

Finally, prison abolitionism was also significant in influencing early Restorative Justice theory and practice. “The International Conference on Penal Abolition (ICOPA—which originally used the word “Prison” in place of later “Penal”) had its first Conference in 1983 in Toronto, which I attended—and several others. It was organized by Ruth Morris, yet another earlier theorist and practitioner. She was also a good friend and one of my five most significant mentors in Restorative Justice/Transformative Justice. This latter was Ruth’s preferred term, because “Restorative” was not radical enough peacemaking/abolitionism. Three of the other significant women mentors were Liz Elliott, Claire Culhane, and Wilma Derksen. They were/are fearless and outspoken women; in their various ways “grandmothers” of Restorative Justice.

Fair to say that, a little like sending out wedding invitations, once begun mentioning early practitioners and theorists, variously “grandfathers/grandmothers” of Restorative Justice, it is hard to know where to stop adding names—which in this highly diverse and communitarian field is as it should be.

I make no claim therefore to have just supplied an “authoritative” list. No one can, given the subjectivity of the “authority,” diversity of the field, and time-frame chosen.

Where I am insistent due to the longstanding attribution to one supposed “grandfather” figure, Howard Zehr, given as well his lack of connection/affirmation to and of most mentioned above, and want of collegiality for some of us in Canada in the early years, is in this: the notion of a single representative “grandfather” of a “unified movement” is unfounded.

Zehr at times directly critiqued this author’s writings by telling me one does not attract bees with vinegar . . . I had already been writing and publishing, usually for MCCC, on Restorative Justice since 1977, and had in the early 1980s been turned down by MCCC in a proposal that I publish a book on Restorative Justice—MCCC felt it could not fund a six-month sabbatical for our family to allow me to complete such a project.

My longstanding commentary on the “bees” comment has been in accord with Ruth Morris’ watchword response to “Restorative Justice” as promulgated back then by Zehr and others of similar ilk: “Not Enough!” (See the essay by that title elsewhere on this site, and in Justice That Transforms: Volume One.) Ruth’s vision was not at the time in line with Zehr’s, though he liked to imagine so: hers was far more trenchant and grand—and controversial!9

Ruth would say, as do I, that a Restorative Justice out mainly to attract “bees” and primarily with honey—all sweetness and light— creates mainly a “B”-Grade Restorative Justice, one better than retributive justice to be sure, but seriously lacking in vigorous fulsome challenge to what Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day repeatedly dubbed “the dirty rotten system,” of which Western criminal justice was a key component. To further play with words, Zehr’s preference then for “B-Grade” was in fact to “D-Grade” the revolutionary potential of what Restorative Justice promised; a preference perhaps residual function of his Mennonite heritage that privileged being die Stillen im Lande—the Quiet in the Land.10 Western systems of justice have always been infected with brutal Empire/colonization and control/“pacification” motifs. In my retirement years, I have devoted a website ( to the Gospel as Counter-Narrative to Empire—the Ultimate Dirty Rotten System. There is much on the site in support of such a thesis.

One should not therefore be so much out trying to attract “B(-Grade)s,” one should instead be creatively challenging the very “WASPS” that run brutal justice systems . . . to as it were (for starters) repent, apologize11make amends, and “sin” no more!WASP” in Canada is in fact an acronym for the “White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant” Establishment—historically the very originators and guardians of such stingingly harmful systems throughout the colonized world. (Not that all working within such systems are necessarily directly caught up in their evil—though ineluctably tainted.)

What is needed, Amos (5:24), Dorothy Day, Ruth Morris, Martin Luther King Jr. and a host of prophetic saints thunderously call for, is rigorously radical transformation of that dirty rotten system! Zehr’s approach to Restorative Justice early on lacked the radical intellectual rigor the best of the Christian (and beyond—think Gandhi) prophetic tradition exhibits. What is wanted is for starters a “ . . . who-can-but-prophesy?—Amos” measured diatribe against the System, such as captured brilliantly in Canadian singer Bruce Cockburn’s “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”: gotta kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight.

I go into greater detail about Restorative Justice intellectual currents ignored by Zehr, at least those swirling in the early formative years in Canada, in Northey, Justice That Transforms: Volume Two, 271–274.

Reconciliation of enmities is the heart of the Gospel message and Christian mission–and of Restorative Justice! It is a peacemaking, not warmaking, response to crime.

Restorative Justice has obviously therefore profound biblical roots12. In Western culture, “It is an irony of history”, claims Religious Studies professor James Williams, “that the very source that first disclosed the viewpoint and plight of the victim is pilloried in the name of various forms of criticism… However, it is in the Western world that the affirmation of ‘otherness,’ especially as known through the victim, has emerged. And its roots sink deeply into the Bible as transmitted in the Jewish and Christian traditions… the standpoint of the victim is [the West’s] unique and chief biblical inheritance. It can be appropriated creatively and ethically only if the inner dynamic of the biblical texts and traditions is understood and appreciated. The Bible is the first and main source for women’s rights, racial justice, and any kind of moral transformation.13 The Bible is also the only creative basis for interrogating the tradition and the biblical texts (James Williams, “King as Servant Sacrifice as Service: Gospel Transformations”, Violence Renounced: René Girard, Biblical Studies, and Peacemaking, Telford, Pa.; Pandora Press; Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 2000, pp. 195 & 196)

RJ World 2020 eConference was a 17-day (extended 7 days beyond August 31) online showcase of more than 100 inspiring presenters from around the world – facilitators / practitioners / teachers / researchers / artists – who are passionate about sharing insights and ideas in the realm of restorative justice and restorative practices in all sectors.

 It drew 100 presenters from 20 c0untries, and 700 registrants from 50 countries.

For general information please click on: RJWorld eConference.

A complete list of of speakers with brief biographies, and their viewable presentations may be accessed by clicking on RJWorld eConference 2020 Speakers.

Highlighted immediately below is the presentation made with David Milgaard, who spent 23 years in prison for a rape and murder he did not commit. Another presentation made is further highlighted below about the gripping story of my friend, Robbie Robidoux.

David Milgaard recruited me to co-present with him at this online Conference. (As said, David spent 23 years in prison in Canada for a murder he did not commit.)

The Conference was an event for workers, volunteers, and those interested anywhere in the Restorative/Transformative Justice/Justice fields. It drew 100 presenters from 20 c0untries, 700 registrants from 50 countries.

For general information please click on: RJWorld eConference

A complete list of of speakers with brief biographies, and their viewable presentations may be accessed by clicking on RJWorld eConference 2020 Speakers.

The video presented at the Conference is below, done over Zoom (David in Cochrane Alberta, I in Agassiz BC):

Please also see below a brief video that was part of a collage of farewells from presenters at the eConference. It was shown August 31, 2020.

That little novel mediation program (Victim Offender Reconciliation Project–VORP–was first dubbed a “Project” due to its initial experimental nature) in response to crime, mentioned in the video with David–begun in Kitchener 1975, of which I became second Director in 1977–significantly helped put Restorative Justice on the World Map! It’s been a personal great journey ever since!

Finally: below is the 19-minute video of all 11 farewells. Very powerful!

Please view as well a Zoom discussion, October 6, 2020, with host Dr. Brad Jersak. (Institute for Religion, Peace & Justice) presents an interview with Wayne Northey (host: Brad Jersak) highlighting the contrast between Western criminal justice as retributive pain-delivery and the inclusive, restorative, community justice that more effectively serves those who offend, those they’ve harmed, and the communities in which they live.

Transcript: IRPJ Q & A with Brad Jersak & Wayne Northey

Much of this material was reworked, added to and published March 2021, in The Kenarchy Journal: a resource for a politics of love, Volume Two.((Restorative Justice: Peacemaking Not Warmaking; Transformative Justice: Penal Abolitionism Not Prison Reform))

Please also see the following video:

* God is Like Jesus: The Spiritual Heart of Restorative Justice

Robbie Robidoux

Our friendship goes back to 1983 when I met Robbie at Oakalla Prison (South Wing), Burnaby British Columbia Canada. His story is riveting. You may listen to or view these links:

Please also view below a Q & A video with Janine Carroll, Robbie Robidoux and Wayne Northey, August 29, 2020, as follow-up to the video above. More on the eConference here, here, and here.

Opioid Crisis

The first group highlighted from the United States reached out to this site to ask that a link be shared. A second group has also asked that we post a link. They are highlighted below, and direct people across America to where to go for help.

The first link directs people similarly in Canada.

I’m in no position to endorse any of these resources.

* Opioid Resources Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction

* Guide to Low Cost or Free Drug Rehab Options (United States)

* Carla Vista: Sober Living Homes (United States)

* Financial Assistance for Those Recovering From Addiction (United States)

Evidence-Based Research



Restorative Justice: Theological/Philosophical

Restorative Justice Applied

Responses to the 2011 Omnibus Bill C-10, “Safe Streets and Communities Act”, and similar legislation


New Perspectives on Crime and Justice – Mennonite Central Committee Occasional Papers, 1984 – 1994, Editors: Howard Zehr, Dave Worth, Wayne Northey

NOTE: The essays below are amongst the earliest from Mennonite circles (or any other circles: see Restorative Justice: Ideas, Values, Debates) on Restorative Justice. The three editors were variously Directors of Victim Offender Ministries (VOM) Mennonite Central Committee Canada (Dave Worth and I), and Director of the US Office of Criminal Justice. There is no extant copyright, so please copy and use at will.

* Crime, Pain and Death – Nils Christie

* A Biblical Vision of Justice – Herman Bianchi

* Peoplehood and Law – Walter Klaassen

* Retributive Justice, Restorative Justice – Howard Zehr

* Transformation of Justice: From Moses to Jesus – Millard Lind

* More Justice, Less Law – John Pendleton

* Justice: The Restorative Vision – Howard Zehr

* Biblical/Theological Works Contributing to Restorative Justice: A Bibliographic Essay – Wayne Northey

* Domestic Violence and Its Aftermath – Marie Marshall Fortune

* Punishment and Retribution: An Attempt to Delimit Their Scope in New Testament Thought – C.F.D. Moule

* Restorative Justice in Ourselves – Kathleen Denison

* Justice is Peacemaking: A Biblical Theology of Peacemaking in Response to Criminal Conflict – Wayne Northey

* Scapegoats, the Bible, and Criminal Justice: Interacting with René Girard – Vern Redekop

* Restorative Justice: Rebirth of an Ancient Practice – Wayne Northey

* Une Justice Restauratrice: la Renaissance d’une Ancienne Pratique – Wayne Northey

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  1. Kuhn, Thomas. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: The University of Chicago, 1962 and 1970.[]
  2. See Richards, Kelly. “Exploring the History of the Restorative Justice Movement.” Paper presented at the “5th International Conference on Conferencing & Circles,” organized by the International Institute for Restorative Practices, August 57, 2004, Vancouver.; and her PhD thesis, ‘Rewriting history’: Towards a Genealogy of ‘restorative justice.’ ” PhD diss., Western Sydney University, 2007; found online here: delve into the history in greater detail. Suffice it to say: Richards demonstrates that a somewhat Restorative Justice myth is that there was ever any particular coherence that might evoke legitimate use of the term “movement.” Though use of mediation is the primary such contender.[]
  3. See: Peachey, Peachey, Dean. “The Kitchener Experiment.” In Mediation and Criminal Justice: Victims, Offenders and Community. Martin Wright and Burt Galaway, eds. Newbury Park: Sage, 1989; see also the film telling the story:; and Nyp, Gary. Pioneers of Peace: the History of Community Justice Initiatives Waterloo Region, 1974–2004. Kitchener: Community Justice Initiatives, 2004.[]
  4. Some call it “seminal” and a “classic.” It was, as argued below, also narrowly focussed. []
  5. See also Pepinsky’s Peacemaking: Reflections of a Radical Criminologist (Criminology as Peacemaking website.)[]
  6. See again Pepinsky’s website.[]
  7. Karl Menninger brilliantly argued similarly in The Crime of Punishment, New York: Penguin, 1966/1977.) []
  8. See below or here: Scapegoats, the Bible, and Criminal Justice: Interacting with René Girard .[]
  9. Ruth at least also indicated she valued my writings. It was Dave Worth my predecessor who had on my behalf put forward to MCCC the book-writing proposal. After it was turned down, Dave kept urging me to nonetheless publish. Well Dave, at long last: here are some . . . Thanks so much for the prodding. []
  10. But see “From ‘die Stillen im Lande’ to ‘Getting in the Way’: A Theology for Conscientious Objection and Engagement by Canadian Mennonite theologian Thomas Yoder Neufeld.[]
  11. Please see Northey, “Call For a Church Apology[]
  12. Though the movement that began officially within the criminal justice jurisdiction of Kitchener Ontario out of a Mennonite peacemaking perspective, at times is scrubbed clean by secular interpreters of the Christian theology at its base.

    This is an intellectual conundrum: understandably, in a multicultural/multireligious world, no one “religion” should dominate the public discourse. My participation in The Spiritual Roots of Restorative Justice project points resoundingly to that. Yet, it is difficult for non-Christian thinkers to “enter into” the theological dynamic that gave rise to Restorative Justice–something uniquely faith-centred. This is not a critique of non-Christian involvement; rather a positing of, as said, an intellectual enigma.

    Theologian Charles Bellinger, wrestling with this very issue on a larger canvass, states in The Genealogy of Violence: Reflections on Creation, Freedom, and Evil: (My book review is here.)

    I suggest that the closure to transcendence inherent in methodological atheism [of contemporary social science in the Academy] prevents its theorists from fully understanding the phenomenon they are seeking to grasp. Concerning the religious vision of the relationship between humanity and its Creator, they presuppose that ‘we have no need of that hypothesis.’ (p. 96).

    Secular theorists, by accepting “the lid placed on thought by the methodological atheism of social science”, by refusing to permit “the horizon [to be] truly opened up to comprehend the divine source of life” (p. 96) are unable to achieve satisfactory explanation of evil because:

    The most basic root of violence is the alienation of human beings from their Creator; thus, non-theological ‘explanations’ of violence are actually caught up in and expressive of the same atmosphere of human alienation from God out of which violence arises. [A footnote adds that secular social philosophy “is complicit with an ‘ontology of violence,’ a reading of the world which assumes the priority of force and tells how this force is best managed and confined by counter-force.”]

    As such, they are unable to master their subject: the ‘explanations’ are themselves trapped in the tragedy of human history.(p. 96, italics in original)

    Secular theorists of violence, in other words, says Bellinger, are like the little girl looking for a coin under the street lamp “because there is more light there” than where the coin was really lost further up the street. The author refers to the present-day intellectuals’ flight from God as embrace of a

    . . . shrunken, contracted self, . . . in alienation from God, [that] is at the same time the root of violent actions and also the root of the inability of modern intellectuals to truly understand human behaviour (p. 97)

    This is reminiscent of Albert Camus’ assertion that he would acknowledge all explanations of evil but the transcendent; or (so commented Karl Barth) Jean Paul Sartre’s brave atheistic existentialist staring down of evil, so imagined, when the real McCoy leers over his shoulder at the charade of the papier mâché evil he in fact engages.[]

  13. See on this for example: Inventing the Individual: The Origins Of Western Liberalism, that argues,

    The roots of liberalism – belief in individual liberty, in the fundamental moral equality of individuals, that equality should be the basis of a legal system and that only a representative form of government is fitting for such a society – all these, Siedentop argues, were pioneered by Christian thinkers of the Middle Ages, who drew on the moral revolution carried out by the early church. It was the arguments of canon lawyers, theologians and philosophers from the eleventh to the fourteenth century, rather than the Renaissance, that laid the foundation for liberal democracy.–emphasis added

    I’m inclined to agree with Bellinger. Towering caveat though: If this is embraced with even a hint of triumphalism, then all is lost before even begun.[]

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.