How restorative justice can repair the broken and heal the harm
Community Justice Scotland’s restorative justice development officer Inesa Vėlavičiūtė draws parallels between practices used to heal harm experienced by people and how kintsugi transforms broken pottery
If you break a plate and try to glue the pieces back together it will never look the same as the fracture will always be visible. But what if you could put it back together, embrace the harm caused and repair it to create something new and just as beautiful?
Just as kintsugi recognises the uniqueness of each repaired object, restorative justice recognises the individuality of each case and takes into account the specific circumstances and needs of the people involved, and tailors the process accordingly. It offers a safe space for open dialogue, empathy and active listening between someone who experienced harm and the person responsible in an attempt to help them understand and process what’s happened.
For those who have experienced harm, taking part in an RJ process can help loosen the ties to difficult events, integrate the experience into their world view and the sense of self, making it easier to move forward. They often report feelings of empowerment, validation, and achieving a sense of closure, all of which contribute to emotional healing. Through RJ, they are given a voice and an active role in determining what justice means to them. This increased agency leads to a heightened sense of personal power, gaining resilience, which propels the healing process even further.
For those who caused harm, on the other hand, transformation comes through taking responsibility for their actions and learning the lessons they need to take away from the experience. It leads to personal growth and change, reintegration, similar to how kintsugi transforms broken objects into something functional once again.
Both restorative justice processes and the kintsugi technique are time-consuming and delicate, requiring patience, skill and active participation. It takes time and effort to turn something that has been damaged into an opportunity for beauty. Both activities encompass the idea that healing is a deliberate, involved, and gradual process – not a quick fix, but rather a journey towards recovery.
By focusing on people rather than systems of punishment and retribution, restorative justice offers a path towards emotional healing and transformation. Just as kintsugi celebrates the beauty found in brokenness and values repair and renewal, RJ recognises the power in restoring relationships, fostering empathy, and nurturing personal resilience. It reminds us that there is a way for a new life to emerge out of shattered pieces and also directs us to respect the inherent value in people and appreciate their potential to change. By embracing this transformative approach, we can heal both individually and as a society, moving towards a future built on compassion and understanding of ourselves and others.