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WN: 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 Zehr’s name stands out in the earlier and subsequent years; but not as theory originator, or first practitioner.

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

One of numerous instances of Dr. Bianchi’s early contributions to the field 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 through criminologist Harold Pepinsky (see below). A year later Dr. Bianchi co-edited Abolitionism: Towards a Non-Repressive Approach Towards Crime, Herman Bianchi & René van Swaaningen, Amsterdam: Free University Press, 1986. (My contribution was the final chapter, “Towards a New Paradigm of Justice” — the idea of “paradigm shift” borrowed from Howard Zehr, in turn Thomas Kuhn.) There had been numerous previous publications in Dutch by Dr. Bianchi. His writings have seldom received their rightful due. 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.

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 criminal justice 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 (see Kelly Richards’ Exploring the History of the Restorative Justice Movement: Paper presented at the “5th International Conference on Conferencing & Circles”, and her PhD thesis that delves into the history in greater detail), certainly Yantzi’s and Worth’s “Kitchener Experiment/The Elmira Case” in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada was one of the most replicated models. (See: “The Kitchener Experiment”, Dean Peachey, Mediation and Criminal Justice: Victims, Community, and Offenders, Martin Wright and Burt Galaway, eds., Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1989; and Pioneers of Peace: The History of Community Justice Initiatives in the Waterloo Region 1974 – 2004, Gary Nyp, Kitchener: Community Justice Initiatives, 2004.)

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 absence of retributive justice elements in those ancient-to modern cultures. Crown Attorney Rupert Ross and Judge Barry Stuart are key early theorists and practitioners.  A paper that explores origins in Canada is “The Origins of Restorative Justice”. Wikipedia’s “Restorative Justice” article is also more comprehensive, though not nuanced like Richards’ scholarly work.

In the same year as Zehr’s book appeared, Harold Pepinsky and Richard Quinney edited and published Criminology As Peacemaking, directly challenging the entire warmaking terminology and practice in criminal justice (see also Pepinsky’s Peacemaking: Reflections of a Radical Criminologist), 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” – from the website for Criminology As Peacemaking.

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 also belong to the panoply of early Restorative Justice “grandfathers”. They also connected this strand to the wider peace movements around the world and historically. One paper by me, “Is There a Place for Dreaming?”, picks up on the international implications of Restorative Justice, and was initially presented at St. Paul University in 2007, while I was the first “Scholar in Residence” at the Conflict Studies Department there, thanks to an invitation from Vern Redekop.

Also, though more tangentially, René Girard should be mentioned as significantly influencing early Restorative Justice theory, both over against biblical 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 (scroll towards bottom of this page to access them), edited by Dave Worth, Howard Zehr and me). It was entitled Scapegoats, the Bible, and Criminal Justice: Interacting with René Girard – Vern Redekop (1993 – and see below on this page). 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. It was organized by Ruth Morris, yet another very earlier theorist and practitioner. She was also a good friend and one of my three most significant mentors in Restorative Justice/Transformative Justice (the latter Ruth’s preferred term, because “Restorative” was not radical enough)/peacemaking/abolitionism. The two others were Liz Elliott and Claire Culhane. They were all 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, it is hard to know where to stop adding names – which in this highly diverse and communitarian field is as it should be.

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 profound biblical roots. 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. 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)

Please see the following video:

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

Robbie Robidoux

Our friendship goes back to 1980 when I met Robbie at Oakalla Prison (South Wing). His story is riveting. You may listen to or view these links:
Audio interview I with Professor Curt Griffiths, Simon Fraser University, about Robidoux’ story andagain (Audio interview II)

Four Days in April – CBC Documentary, September 28, 2012: John Chipman’s documentary on the riot and hostage-taking at Kingston Penitentiary in 1971; an interview with prison ombudsman Howard Sapers about the legacy of the riot, and how conditions today compare.

Tales From KP, CBC Doc Zone (video) September 19, 2013: Stories of some of the most carefully guarded secrets of Kingston Penitentiary with some of the most unlikely characters —on both sides of the law!

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)

Evidence-Based Research

* The Role of Family and Pro-Social Relationships in Reducing Recidivism
* Can Faith-Based Correctional Programs Work? An Outcome Evaluation of the InnerChange Freedom Initiative in Minnesota


* Prison Fellowship International
* Justice Reflections
* Restorative Justice Consortium
* Five 8 Support for Ex-Offenders
* Baraza Peace Courts: ensuring fair and non-punitive justice in DRC by Alana Poole
* International CURE – Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants


* Catholic Charities Justice Services of British Columbia (CCJS – BC)
* Smart Justice Network of Canada/Réseau pour une justice éclairéé au Canada
* Mennonite Central Committee Canada Restorative Justice
* The Church Council on Justice and Corrections
* Just.Equipping
* Pathways To Freedom Ministries
* Catholic Connections in Restorative Justice
* Correctional Service of Canada Restorative Justice

Restorative Justice: Theological/Philosophical

* The Cross: God’s Peace Work – Towards a Restorative Peacemaking Understanding of the Atonement by Wayne Northey
* A Brief Look At Restorative Justice by Wayne Northey
* Biblical Bases for Restorative Justice – Ted Grimsrud
* Healing Justice – Ted Grimsrud
* Call For a Church Apology Vis À Vis Crime and Punishment by Wayne Northey
* The Two Greatest Commandments and Prison Ministry by Wayne Northey
* War, Police and Prisons: Cross-Examining State-Sanctioned Violence by Wayne Northey
* Annalise Acorn’s “Compulsory Compassion” — Book Review by Wayne Northey
The Sex Offender as Scapegoat – by Hugh Kirkegaard and Wayne Northey
* Justice That Restores – Book Review by Wayne Northey
* Restorative Justice and Spirituality by Wayne Northey
* Restorative Justice and Prison Visitation by Wayne Northey
* Beyond Retribution: A New Testament Vision for Justice, Crime, and Punishment – Book Review by Wayne Northey
* God’s Just Vengeance: Crime, Violence and the Rhetoric of Salvation – Book Review by Wayne Northey
* No Future Without Forgiveness by Bishop Desmond Tutu – Book Review by Wayne Northey
* A Halting Spiritual Quest, Three Minorities, and Restorative Justice by Wayne Northey
* Transformative Justice Vision and Spirituality (part 1) by Wayne Northey
* Transformative Justice Vision and Spirituality (part 2) by Wayne Northey
* The Fall of the Prison – Book Review by Wayne Northey
* The Expanding Prison – Book Review by Wayne Northey
* A Brief Look at Restorative Justice by Wayne Northey
* The Craft of Forgiveness by Wayne Northey
* Criminal justice system should not separate us
* Restorative Justice: An International Journal (new 2013)
* ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ to Restorative Justice as a “Mennonite Thing” – Brian R. Grumm
* From Condemnation to Conversion: Seeking restorative justice in the prison system – Stephen J. Pope

Restorative Justice Applied

* A Flawed Compass: A Human Rights Analysis of the Roadmap to Strengthening Public Safety
* Canada’s inhumane prison plan – Conrad Black
* Black has unlocked the truth about prisons
* Conrad Black: My prison education
* A Second Chance or a Boot in the Face
* Crime Control as Industry – Review
* Kelly McParland: Stockwell Day’s criminal logic
* Stockwell Day cites ‘alarming’ rise in unreported crime to justify new prisons
* Crime rate falls to lowest level since 1973
* Sound the alarm on Stockwell Day’s statistics
* Drug-Related Violence:Evidence from a Scientific Review
* Tough Justice: Is the Harper Agenda a Phony War on Crime?
* Ombudsman questions cost of government’s crime agenda
* Tory agenda wreaking havoc on prisons: watchdog
* Getting tough on crime is toughest on the taxpayer
* Canada’s prisons not ready for inmate surge: Federal report
* Prison reform needed to prevent in-custody deaths: ombudsman
* Prison ‘double-bunking’ risks violence, ombudsman says
* CCJC Prophetic Community Education
* CCJC Witnessing on Public Policy
* Through a glass, darkly
* Unlocking America
* Criminally Unjust: Why America’s prison policy needs repair
* Strange Bedfellows
* Prisons, Peace, and Compassion Conference, May 20 – 22, 2011
* Women and the Law & Order Agenda
* Keep Ex-Prisoner Crime-Free 6 Months At Least, Will Likely Remain So – Study
* The Sex Offender as Scapegoat: Vigilante Violence and a Faith Community Response
* Shannon Moroney’s Story: How we as a society and the media are quick to extend guilt to the families of the guilty
* Rough justice in America: Too many laws, too many prisoners – Never in the civilised world have so many been locked up for so little
* Everybody does it!: crime by the public – This is the first book to explore in detail crime committed by the general public. “I wanted to take issue with the hypocrisy displayed by many citizens who routinely condemn what they consider to be our leniency towards convicted criminals, while they justify their own illegalities.” (author)
* From Condemnation to Conversion: Seeking restorative justice in the prison system
* Points of Justice – By Ronald W. Nikkel
* The Better Angels (on CoSA)
* Minding The Monster on CoSA)

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

* Fear-Driven Policy: Ottawa’s harsh new penal proposals won’t make us safer, just poorer—and less humane. * Federal legislation tough on young criminals – “this strategy doesn’t work”
* Lawyers attack Harper’s tough-on-crime agenda * Crime and Public: CBC’s ‘The Current” on tough-on-crime policy * Prison culture exposed: War on Drugs Destructive * Penal Populism: The politicization of crime under Harper – The Harper Conservatives’ reverence for gain and disdain of evidence helped turn a justice system for the people into an enemy of the people. * The Fear Factor:Stephen Harper’s “Tough on Crime” Agenda – by Paula Mallea * Texas conservatives reject Harper’s crime plan: ‘Been there; done that; didn’t work,’ say Texas crime-fighters * American conservatives lead the charge on reducing incarceration and reducing crime. * Ian Mulgrew: Chronic offenders need treatment, not incarceration, police chief says ‘Punitive approach’ does not get at root causes of criminal activity: report
* Study: Prevention Fights Crime Better Than Jail
* Tough on crime will likely lead to more crime, bigger deficit: report
* The Evidence is Clear: Bill C-10 Will Result in Expensive, Ineffective Sentencing
* A Meaner Canada : Junk Politics and the Omnibus Crime Bill
* What’s Wrong With Harper’s Omnibus Crime Bill
* Salvaging a Faulty Crime Bill
* Incarceration and Crime: A Complex Relationship
* New crime bill good for lawyers – “despite the almost universal condemnation of the approach.”
* Singer/songwriter Steve Bell’s Open Letter to Stephen Harper Regarding Omnibus Crime Bill C-10
* Targeting Mrs. B – government crime bills are “unjust, ineffective and ultimately immoral legislation designed for base political purposes.”
* Quebec will refuse to pay for omnibus crime bill – “What you’ve got is a Band-Aid solution here, you’re not curing anything.” – Quebec’s justice minister
* N.L. joins Ontario, Quebec in criticism of crime bill – [Justice Minister] Collins said he has never seen a study that favours more jail time as a way to cut rates of reoffence and improve public safety.”
New crime bill hazardous to children
* Canadian Quakers’ Submission on Bill C-10, Safe Streets and Communities Act – “Reject policies that aim mainly at punishment…”
* Mennonite Central Committee Canada: Advocate for change: Bill C-10
* Church Council on Justice and Corrections to “Standing Committee on Finance”
* Bill C-10, The Omnibus Crime Bill: Unwise, Unjust, Unconstitutional
* BC, Stand Up For Canadian Justice
* Tough-on-crime bill toughest on taxpayers
* Kevin Libin: Provinces will pay dearly for Tory crime bill
* Steve Sullivan: Omnibus crime bill ignores the true victims
* Scott Stinson: Tory crime bill launches latest big federalism fight
* Focus on reintegrating inmates into society, mother of murdered girl tells MPs
* Sex abuse researchers tout rehab, not prison
* Stop the Crime Bill: We can reach millions through our local papers
* 10 reasons to oppose Bill C-10 – by Trinda L. Ernst, president of the Canadian Bar Association. “It’s an approach that will make us less safe, less secure, and ultimately, less Canadian.”
* Jails don’t keep people out of jail: “The financial cost of implementing effective, integrated systems pales in comparison to the billions it costs to build and operate new prisons… Criminal justice legislation that increases prison populations while draining resources from community programs in mental health, education, child poverty and social services makes absolutely no sense.”
* Harper’s crime bill misguided, N.S. experts say: Omnibus legislation doesn’t match statistical evidence: lawyer
* Federal crime legislation casts ‘dark shadow’ on principles of justice, Ontario judge says


* About A Catholic Priest and a Young Boy
* Friends of Dismas
* Cons Helping Cons
The Empathic Civilisation
* God’s Chisel [from September 2010 M2/W2 Volunteer Training]
* Alcohol Sensitive Gene Discovered
* Why Evangelicals Hate Jesus
* Bill Maher: If You Celebrated Bin Laden’s Death, You’re Not Really A Christian
* The Tea Party and Religion
* Charter for Compassion
* Clarion Journal
* The Big Chill: Basic freedoms of speech and advocacy are now under siege in Canada
* Serving Life
* Worldwide Spread Compassion Day – October 8, 2011
* Jail death of mentally ill teen was preventable, inquest told
* Crime rate falls to lowest level since 1973
* Prison issues: Lack of care for people with mental illness; Christian-based community intervention is highly effective; War on drugs is crime-producing and a failure
* More God, Less Crime?
* Incarceration in the United States – Canada’s Future?
* Making Ministers of Inmates
* They Died in Vain; Deal With It
* I do not normally post petitions, but… please “Support the Social Protection Floor Initiative”
* New social impact bond targets the greater good
* Sentence Severity and Crime: Accepting the Null Hypothesis – “…sentence severity has no effect on the level of crime in society.”
* Deterrence in Criminal Justice: Evaluating Certainty vs. Severity of Punishment – “Based upon the existing evidence, both crime and imprisonment can be simultaneously reduced if policy-makers reconsider their overreliance on severity based policies such as long prison sentences (from the “Conclusion”).”
Smart Justice
* New civilian agency to probe police incidents in B.C.
* Of turned leaves and pages – re. Liz Elliott, by a prisoner
* Education vs. Incarceration – More money must go to schools than to prisons before high-crime neighborhoods can truly be reformed. (from the U.S.)
* The Caging of America: Why do we lock up so many people? – by Adam Gopnik January 30, 2012
* Prison Uncensored – The Truth Behind the Bars: What “They” Don’t Want You To Know
* Canadian Chaplains — Martin E. Marty
* The Harper Doctrine: Once a Criminal, Always a Criminal – BY EDWARD L. GREENSPAN AND ANTHONY N. DOOB (Walrus Magazine September 2012)
* Ashley Smith Case & Mental Health in Canadian Prisons
* Help from Sesame Street for “Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration”
* People Recover – Educational Comic Book: Co-Occurring Disorders
* British Columbia Criminal Justice Association newsletter
* Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator 2013-2014
* Tales from KP (Kingston Penitentiary – CBC Doc Zone)
* The American Legal System: A Ball Game Played by Lawyers and Jurists: The Why of Not Doing the Right Thing
* Editorial: Questioning our assent to militarism [by extension to “war on crime” – National Catholic Reporter]
* Bishops’ support for wars underpins collection for military archdiocese [National Catholic Reporter]
* Four Days in April: Documentary
* Tales From KP: CBC Doc Zone
* Wealth Inequality in America
* Enforce them, but these laws are an ass
* ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ to Restorative Justice as a “Mennonite Thing”
* Can Faith-Based Correctional Programs Work? An Outcome Evaluation of the InnerChange Freedom Initiative in Minnesota

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

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.

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Wayne Northey

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