Academic journal article Dalhousie Law Journal

Getting Past the Gatekeepers: The Reception of Restorative Justice in the Nova Scotian Criminal Justice System

Academic journal article Dalhousie Law Journal

Getting Past the Gatekeepers: The Reception of Restorative Justice in the Nova Scotian Criminal Justice System

Article excerpt

This paper draws upon twelve years of multi-dimensional research and focuses on the reception of restorative justice in the criminal justice system in Nova Scotia. The paper traces the evolution of the restorative justice social movement, examining the launching and take-off phases, the impact on the police gate-keeping role, the receptivity and use of restorative justice by other criminal justice system professionals, its current level of institutionalization in the criminal justice system, and its future prospects.

Cet article s'inspire de douze années de recherche multidimensionnelle et traite plus particulièrement de la réception accordée à la justice réparatrice dans le système de justice pénale en Nouvelle-Écosse. Il suit l'évolution du mouvement social en faveur de la justice réparatrice, examine les phases de son lancement et de son démarrage ainsi que son impact sur le rôle de répression de la police, la réceptivité et l'utilisation de la justice réparatrice par d'autres professionnels du système de justice pénale, son niveau d'institutionnalisation actuel dans le système de justice pénale et ses perspectives pour l'avenir.


I. The gatekeeper role

II. Restorative justice: the launching years

III. Initial criminal justice system receptivity: the wall

IV. Criminal justice system receptivity at the restorative justice take-off stage

V. Restorative justice evolution in the Nova Scotia criminal justice system: referrals and offences referred

VI. Restorative justice's evolution in the criminal justice system: institutionalization

VII. Current criminal justice system perspectives



The Nova Scotia Restorative Justice Program (NSRJ) came into being in 1999-2000 as a result of effective moral entrepreneurship,1 stimulated by restorative justice-related initiatives elsewhere, and after almost two years of discussion and planning among provincial leaders in policing, prosecution, judiciary, and corrections.2 It is regarded as one of the best criminal justice system-initiated restorative justice programs in Canada. The NSRJ program was set up to be applicable at all levels of the criminal justice system, with restorative justice referrals possible at four entry points, namely: pre-charge, post-charge, post-conviction, and postsentencing.3 On paper at least, restorative justice could apply to all offences and offenders, beginning with youths and subsequently being expanded to include adults. Its strengths organizationally are many: provincewide programming; secure, substantial, long-term governmental funding generous for a small so-called have-not province; collaboration with local non-profit agencies who deliver the service while the provincial NSRJ management provides coordination, protocols and training; and complete funding for the agencies' full-time staff. It has also partnered with and contributed significantly to the success of the province-wide Aboriginal restorative justice program.4 Its impact, measured in terms of conventional criminal justice system evaluation concerns, has been impressive: less recidivism than in similar, court processed cases; high levels of satisfaction among all categories of participants in the restorative justice sessions (offenders, victims, supporters, police attendees and others); and diversion of roughly thirty-three per cent of all cases of youth arrest from the court processing stream.5 The NSRJ program has evolved over the past decade-partly as a result of its effective institutionalization in the Nova Scotian criminal justice system and partly as a result of federal legislation and policies (e.g., the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJAJ and subsequent court interpretations). Now restorative justice referrals are as likely to come from crown prosecutors as from the police, where the anticipated extension of restorative justice to adults is underway throughout Nova Scotia, and where its success has stimulated restorative justice/restorative practices initiatives in provincial prisons and beyond the criminal justice system in schools' human rights cases and other areas of social life. …

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