11 Decolonizing Restorative Justice

Jenna Smith

Title: Decolonization Restoration: Reconstructing Restorative Justice Practices


Restorative justice can and needs to be decolonized. When analyzing the impacts of colonization, defining decolonization, and exploring decolonized practices, one sees that decolonized versions of restorative measures can and indeed do occur within post-colonial societies. Asadullah’s decolonizing tree framework offers a reasonable and appropriate framework to deconstruct colonial elements and augment decolonial values within existing restorative practices. Upon embracing the information within this essay, it is my hope that students and restorative justice practitioners understand and adopt decolonized mindsets in order to reimagine restorative justice and continue their education with the intent to deconstruct colonial values.


Since the 1990s, the use of restorative justice practices has increased exponentially in post-colonial countries such as Canada and New Zealand (Tauri, 2009). Restorative justice is an alternative form of justice that focuses on victims, communities and offenders (Vogel, 2006). Compared to retributive forms of justice, restorative justice offers a collaborative approach that is trauma-informed and harm-reducing (Vogel, 2006). The theory behind restorative justice is that offenders, through community-based, mediated collaborative punishment, take responsibility for their actions, which in turn will create stronger communities (Vogel, 2006). Victims, like offenders, are key stakeholders throughout the restorative justice process and are encouraged, alongside the community, to play an active role in the justice process (Vogel, 2006). Despite the glowing reputation and seemingly solid theory behind restorative justice measures, the widespread use of restorative justice in post-colonial States has illustrated a disconnect within the justice community. Notably, once post-colonial States adopt practices of restorative justice, it often becomes falsely categorized as Indigenous justice (Breton, 2012). Such categorization is no mistake. It means that post-colonial States adopt restorative practices into a Western crime-control model then claim these practices are to aid Indigenous offenders (Daly, 2002). This false categorization is extremely damaging and harmful to Indigenous peoples within the post-colonial States that have introduced restorative justice measures (Findlay, 2000). It also illustrates the lack of awareness among policy makers and program developers about Indigenous culture and the extent of its difference to mainstream culture. Restorative and Indigenous justice share similar practices, but the way in which each justice method is executed and applied to individuals within communities is different and therefore Indigenous justice and restorative justice cannot be considered equal (Braun, 2019). There is a need to decolonize restorative justice and its practices, which have been purposely misrepresented throughout its existence in post-colonial States such as Canada (Tauri, 2021). This misrepresentation most likely began when the Government of Canada implemented restorative justice as a smoke screen to seem “more inclusive” towards Indigenous offenders.

 In order to decolonize restorative justice, one must assess the implications of colonization on the justice system and the people it serves. This requires an active effort to find relevant working definitions of decolonization in order to promote it within the context of restorative justice and in daily life of average Canadians through education delivery. Dr. Muhammad Asadullah’s decolonizing tree framework offers an approach for recognizing the colonial aspects of restorative justice practices that make it fail Indigenous people, the very group it purports to help (Asadullah, 2021). In order to conceptually test a decolonized restorative justice practice, Asadullah’s framework can be used to deconstruct case examples to determine if the practice is decolonial. Decolonizing restorative justice is possible, but not without a usable and transferable framework that encompasses the cultural needs of Indigenous peoples and other minorities over-represented in the justice system.

The Impacts of Colonization

The implications of colonization are tangible in most post-colonial States. In fact, colonization and globalization processes have massively contributed to the suffering of Indigenous peoples (Tauri, 2016). Through the process of colonization, many Indigenous populations were annihilated as settlers arrived in their areas (Diamond, 1999). For example, approximately 90 million Indigenous peoples are believed to have resided in the Americas prior to the arrival of European explorers and settlers (Diamond, 1999). As part of the colonial system, settlers forcefully imposed their ideals on Indigenous peoples (Hand, Hankes, & House, 2012). As part of this process, anti-Indigenous laws, norms, practices and social values were adopted by white settlers. Through colonial assimilation, the collective identities of the Indigenous peoples were stolen and many of their collective (cultural) memories lost (Lavallee & Poole, 2009).  Under settler rule, Indigenous people were forbidden to practice their cultural ceremonies or speak their languages (Lavallee & Poole, 2009). Indigenous people were ethnologically suffocated by the colonizers, and the implications of this cultural genocide continues to plague Indigenous peoples in post-colonial societies today (Hand, Hankes, & House, 2012).

This process of colonization through assimilation, exploitation, general social exclusion, and criminalization has had lasting effects on the current criminal justice system, alternative justice measures such as restorative justice, and the Indigenous peoples of the post-colonial States (Cunneen, 2002). Not only were formal justice systems based on the settler-colonial ideology, but its discriminatory values continue to hamper post-colonial societies even as they move closer to positive, decolonized forms of justice (Breton, 2012). The problems within many current postcolonial justice practices have affected the ways restorative justice has been introduced, developed, and implemented (Tauri, 2016). The impacts of colonization within the current, colonially influenced justice system and its rehabilitation practices include the Indigenisation of restorative justice, which perpetuates the colonial loss of identity among Indigenous peoples.

The Absent Emotion Factor

The foundations of the traditional Western legal system of most post-colonial States are rooted in colonialism (Asadullah, 2021). This colonial influence has embedded a legal ‘etiquette’ throughout the justice system that conveys, maintains, and perpetuates itself. Thus, the therapeutic element of emotion has been removed from legal proceedings in colonized States. The Canadian Court, for example, is performative rather than emotive in that an offender’s legal advocate or lawyer stands before the court and presents most of the defense. Lawyers and legal advisors portray the needs and circumstances of their client. Within this process, it is rare for an offender to testify about how they feel about their crime. There are many reasons for this, such as fear that an act of empathy or apology could lead to suspicions about their innocence or intent (Karstedt, 2002). The restorative justice approach of the offender acknowledging responsibility in front of stakeholders allows for transformation in terms of emotional healing. Victims also lack enforceable rights to share their feelings and achieve emotional healing within the criminal legal proceedings of post-colonial States (Karstedt, 2002). Although victim impact statements may be read, they aim to clarify the seriousness of a crime committed rather than offer a way for victims to obtain closure or offenders to admit, understand, and explain their accountability as well as guilt.

Emotion is central to changing behaviour and understanding one’s responsibility (Vogel, 2006). Despite the use of victim impact statements, the emotional element of humility within justice is quite absent (Karstedt, 2002). This absence of emotion is a colonial attribute normalized within current legal criminal proceedings and in the tomes of legal literature. Legal research relating to the current, colonially influenced criminal justice systems also lacks explorations of the role of emotion (Karstedt, 2002). The role of emotion can be demonstrated by displays of crying, apologizing, expressing remorse and addressing the community. Taking responsibility and transforming emotions are vital to the success of restorative practices (Vogel, 2006).  It can thus be said that the restorative power of emotion is not recognized in current criminal justice proceedings or restorative justice practices in postcolonial states.

Indigenisation of Restorative Justice

Moving from colonial criminal justice proceedings to restorative justice is often seen as positive in post-colonial States (Daly, 2002). Restorative justice as an alternative justice model was widely adopted throughout post-colonial States starting in the 1990s (Tauri, 2009). As restorative measures began to gain traction within criminal justice systems of post-colonial States around the globe, governments turned restorative justice into a Western-centric crime-control model (Daly, 2002). This model was then held up as concurrent with Indigenous justice and popularized by the government as a way to help Indigenous offenders (Tauri, 2009). The ensuing misconception of restorative justice can be seen as a “purposeful misrepresentation” within the restorative justice industry (Tauri, 2021). This misrepresentation of restorative justice as Indigenous benefits the governments of post-colonial States by wrongly implying inclusiveness of Indigenous peoples into justice practices (Tauri, 2021).

The purposeful exclusion of Indigenous peoples within justice systems is another method used by post-colonial governments to silence Indigenous people. On the one hand, the Indigenisation of restorative justice is harmful because it pretends to promote the goals of Indigenous advocates who have fought extremely hard for their sovereignty in justice matters (Breton, 2012). On the other hand, when Indigenous justice is categorized and advertised as restorative justice, the miscategorization weakens the Indigenous fight for sovereignty within postcolonial States and perpetuates systemic injustice (Breton, 2012). Thus, it is critically important to separate the practices of restorative justice and Indigenous justice in post-colonial societies. Currently, most restorative practices in post-colonial States exhibit a top-down approach that is applied within the Western crime control model. The top-down approach means implementation of strategies for restorative justice at the highest levels of government in the vague hope they will trickle down to communities and individuals. This strong State involvement directly opposes traditional Indigenous values and conflict-resolution or justice measures in previously colonized lands (Tauri, 2021). The Indigenization of restorative justice is directly tied to colonization because it is a way that post-colonial governments maintain control over Indigenous peoples.

Loss of identity

Needless to say, colonization has impacted Indigenous peoples tremendously. One devastating implication of colonization is the loss of Indigenous identity (Lavallee & Poole, 2009). Through the process of assimilation paired with the other negative effects of colonization, Indigenous identities across the globe have been suffocated (Lavallee & Poole, 2009). Historically, post-colonial states such as Canada used laws to ban Indigenous peoples from practicing their ceremonies and traditions (Lavallee & Poole, 2009). An example of such legislation is the implementation of residential schools across Canada. Despite extreme pressure by the government, the Indigenous peoples managed to retain aspects of their culture, largely because colonial values and assimilation processes were so unjust they could stand in the way of but never replace Indigenous knowledge and traditions (Wolfe, 2006).

Many attempts to save their identities have been made by the Indigenous peoples of post-colonial States. Indigenous peoples have asked for their sovereignty and well as self-governance (McGuire & Palys, 2020). Sovereignty and self-governance could ensure culturally appropriate justice practices and measures that would uphold Indigenous community values. Thus, sovereignty and self-governance for Indigenous peoples are vital steps towards decolonization. However, there is widespread reluctance from the government to afford Indigenous peoples the right of self-governance. This reluctance stems from colonization, as post-colonial governments are quick to radicalize Indigenous peoples (Tauri, 2016). Notably, it is common practice at all levels of post-colonial governments to dismiss Indigenous people’s ideas, values and justice practices (McGuire & Palys, 2020). Despite this, Indigenous peoples continue to fight for and restore their decimated cultural identities and rights.

Defining Decolonization

Decolonization is a dynamic concept, it can be understood and conceptualized in many ways (Sium & Desai, 2012). Decolonization is sustained through the incorporation of Indigenous practices and Indigenous knowledge (Braun, 2019). Decolonization can be understood as a deconstruction of Western ideals that depend on colonizer values. Decolonization has macro and micro forms and can happen in many ways (Asadullah, 2021). Macro forms of decolonization target large-scale, institutional and systemic change (Asadullah, 2021). Macro forms of decolonization are thus vital for decolonized justice practices within postcolonial States. Notably, micro forms of decolonization are also extremely important (Asadullah, 2021). Micro forms of decolonization target the worldview of individuals (Asadullah, 2021). An example of micro decolonization is the decolonization of one’s mindset as a person can redefine themselves and what motivates them once they have broken down the barriers that colonial values reinforce (Asadullah, 2021). Both micro and macro forms of decolonization are integral to the deconstruction of colonial values within postcolonial States. As suggested by this discussion of micro and macro forms of decolonization, there are multiple ways to conceptualize decolonization, but it must always aim to ensure the rights of all citizens, not just those of the mainstream core. This can only be achieved through the decolonization of spaces, policies, practices, and people’s minds.

Decolonizing Spaces

In order to decolonize post-colonial States, the Indigenous peoples need to be consciously welcomed back into spaces from which they have been exiled (Cunneen, 2002). Since Indigenous peoples were victims of assimilation by the settlers, the Indigenous peoples’ territory and resources were also lost (Wolfe, 2006). This hostile takeover of resources and land was the settlers’ primary motive and the reason for forced assimilation of the Indigenous peoples (Wolfe, 2006). This is because land was and is considered an extremely valuable resource and the colonial system was specifically designed to create wealth for the mother country through the exploitation of natural and human resources (Wolfe, 2006). A relationship with the land was a central tenet of Indigenous people that was lost when they were relocated and put upon reserves (Cunneen, 2002). Moreover, because of the twisted implications of colonization, these reserves are also linked to social views on Indigenous criminality since they served to radicalize Indigenous people in the eyes of the public (Cunneen, 2002). The decolonization of spaces is a necessary step in rebalancing authority lost through the assimilation process and must focus on letting Indigenous peoples into spaces from which they have been ideologically excluded (Cunneen, 2002). These spaces include government establishments and local justice organizations (Cunneen, 2002). Further, pathways for change must be created in order for Indigenous peoples to regain land rights and become part of conversations about sustainability on all fronts (Cunneen, 2002). Once there is decolonization of spaces, Indigenous people can safely practice Indigenous knowledge once more.

Decolonizing our minds

The aspect of decolonizing the mind is hard for most of us to fathom. To decolonize one’s mind is to forfeit motivations brought forward by Western ideologies and become open to the possibilities of more equitable ideals that are unbeknownst to the mind (Cunneen, 2002). This type of decolonization is arguably the hardest to achieve because the colonial system also worked to brainwash settlers and Indigenous peoples into believing there is only one cultural reality, and this persists in postcolonial States. The one cultural reality that was presented consisted of Western ideologies. These Western ideologies are based on status, an unquestioning approach to authority and celebration of individual self-interest. It is extremely difficult to distance oneself from this deeply embedded white-settler narrative (Sium & Desai, 2012). Moreover, the decolonization of individual minds will also depend upon a reimagining of the colonial power structures that keep this thinking alive (Cunneen, 2002). A questioning of such power structures in postcolonial states and why is paramount in bolstering individual cognitive awareness. Not only do individuals’ minds need to be open to the concept of decolonization, a collective push for the systemic change needed to decolonize society will also be required.

Rights must be recognized

In order to decolonize post-colonial societies, Indigenous rights must be properly granted (Cunneen, 2002). Since the arrival of the settlers within postcolonial countries, the rights of Indigenous peoples have been neither properly sustained nor addressed. Treaty rights should be upheld in all countries that signed them and the many wrongs of colonial and postcolonial governments in terms of human right contraventions should be righted. In order to right these wrongs, the governments of postcolonial States must publicly address the power imbalances within their societies in a clear move towards reconciliation (Asadullah, 2021). That said, Indigenous advocates must be part of the process. Their voices must be heard and properly considered at all levels of government. Indigenous peoples are being punished for living on land that is rightfully theirs. This punishment comes in many forms in Canada, such as over-policing on reserves and a lack of clean drinking water (Environment Climate Change Canada, 2021). The possibility of decolonization cannot even be glimpsed until Indigenous peoples receive basic human rights in postcolonial states.

Restorative Justice and Decolonization

All justice systems in postcolonial states must be decolonized. In terms of restorative justice, decolonization must take place at both the institutional and personal level to satisfy its macro and micro forms (Asadullah, 2021). First, restorative justice must be decolonized at a level of the State institution (Asadullah, 2021). This form of decolonization happens when power structures are questioned and deconstructed in the aim of creating systemic change (Asadullah, 2021). This macro form of decolonization could be accomplished by changing restorative justice protocols to ensure standardized and properly categorized applications. The government’s role in restorative practices must also be deconstructed, as government initiatives for restorative measures can contribute more harm than good (Asadullah, 2021). Essentially, decolonizing power relationships at institutional levels deconstructs settler narratives by ensuring less of a power imbalance between certain groups of a postcolonial state and the government (Asadullah, 2021). This approach to addressing the power imbalances within the criminal justice system would constitute macro decolonization having the potential to create institutional change (Asadullah, 2021).

Secondly, the decolonization of restorative justice must occur within the minds of individuals (Cunneen, 2002). People must be taught to reflect on the implications of colonization for society and educate themselves instead of being defensive regarding privileges they may have within that society. The personal decolonization of one’s mind is a micro form (Asadullah, 2021). Doing this will require postcolonial states to provide citizens with information about Indigenous values, traditions, and practices to pave the way to the Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination. It will be nearly impossible to escape the colonizer mindset; however, since the ideology of postcolonial societies is rooted in colonization (Sium & Desai, 2012).

Overall, the need for a decolonized restorative justice is great. Decolonization of restorative justice would introduce change within justice systems founded on colonial values. Moreover, both macro and micro forms are involved in the push to decolonize restorative justice, which will include the deconstruction of institutional practices and personal motivations.

A Decolonizing Framework for Restorative Justice

Since decolonization has no standard definition, there have been many frameworks presented for the purpose of creating successful restorative practices. An inclusive, extensive example of a restorative justice framework for decolonization is the “decolonizing tree” created by Muhammad Asadullah (Asadullah, 2021). The decolonizing tree offers a framework for identifying the essential attributes of a successfully decolonized restorative justice practice (Asadullah, 2021). Through the decolonizing lens, these attributes are expressed through the roots, trunk, branches and fruit (Asadullah, 2021).

First, one must examine the roots of the decolonizing tree when considering a restorative justice practice (Asadullah, 2021). This bottom-up approach to decolonization ensures there is a do-no-harm principle attached to the restorative justice practice in question (Asadullah, 2021). All restorative practices must thus be informed by a trauma-informed lens and involve a consultation aspect with Indigenous peoples and the local community (Asadullah, 2021). Validating the roots of a restorative justice practice is foundational in creating an anti-oppressive restorative practice (Asadullah, 2021).

Secondly, the trunk of the decolonizing tree must be analysed in order to verify decolonized restorative justice practices (Asadullah, 2021). The trunk of restorative justice within the decolonizing tree framework is composed of local cultures and traditions that ensure practices are culturally relevant (Asadullah, 2021). Certifying restorative practices as relational is vital for decolonization (Asadullah, 2021). The trunk of the decolonizing tree also symbolizes the need for strong, collaborative leadership within the community that is inclusive of Indigenous people.

Thirdly, the decolonizing tree framework has branches to ensure grassroots wisdom and guidance throughout the restorative justice process (Asadullah, 2021). The branches also point to the need to acknowledge and learn from other culturally relevant and similar restorative practices around the world (Asadullah, 2021). When examining similar practices, one can recognize and personalize those that may have potential in one’s own community. In short, the success of a decolonial restorative practice is vital to build upon other relevant practices of a similar nature (Asadullah, 2021).

Finally, the fourth concept within the decolonizing tree framework is fruit the tree bears (Asadullah, 2021). The fruit symbolizes the sharing of successful, decolonial, restorative practices with other communities in need of similar practices (Asadullah, 2021). The desired outcome here is to have locally grown and owned restorative practices in a given community (Asadullah, 2021). Reflection and sharing are decolonial concepts that complement positive restorative justice measures and should be implemented to ensure the success of any community based, bottom-up practices (Asadullah, 2021).

In sum, the decolonizing tree can be used to ensure that the appropriate decolonial elements exist in a given restorative justice practice. Such elements include the roots, which are foundational to each practice and ensure a bottom-up approach that pays special attention to trauma-informed justice (Asadullah, 2021). The next element is the trunk, which ensures the practice is composed of or collaboratively includes local, Indigenous influences and leadership (Asadullah, 2021). The tree branches ensure the practice is culturally relevant to the community (Asadullah, 2021).  Finally, the fruit of the program is an essential element as the practices can be shared among communities who can use them for their own purposes (Asadullah, 2021). The decolonizing tree allows for easy understanding of decolonizing practices within restorative justice as it lays out a framework for the essential attributes of decolonized practice (Asadullah, 2021).

Decolonized Restorative Justice Practices

The Production of ‘Cellfish’

Prison theatre programs include multiple practices that are considered restorative in nature. These theatre programs are created by prisoners to be performed before external communities and internal communities within the prisons themselves (Hazou, 2017). One specific aspect of prison theatre looking to a decolonized form of restorative justice is the New Zealand production, CellFish (Hazou, 2017). The production of CellFish fosters the reparation of harm, as it itself enacts restorative justice principles (Hazou, 2017).  CellFish was written by Miriama McDowell, Rob Mokaraka and Jason Te Kare (Hazou, 2017). It speaks to the implications of colonization including dehumanization and the absence of emotion within the criminal justice system of New Zealand (Hazou, 2017). The production takes a critical look at the current retributive system and how it can be restored through restorative justice principles (Hazou, 2017). Within the production, both professional actors and prisoners have been able to perform, making it a hybrid opportunity for people to learn and feel the legacies of colonialism within the prison system while ensuring a safe space (Hazou, 2017).  CellFish can be deconstructed within the decolonizing tree framework in order to further examine the production’s relationship to colonialism and community.

First, in terms of the decolonizing tree’s root element, the production of CellFish is grounded in consultation with Indigenous people (Hazou, 2017). The production of CellFish was built upon the experiences of prisoners incarnated in New Zealand (Hazou, 2017). It touches on themes of colonization and the implications with imprisonment rates of the Māori peoples and offers appropriate representation of this cultural group (Hazou, 2017). Notably, the production is aptly focussed on the Māori peoples, as they have the highest incarnation rates in New Zealand making them both the most affected and the most disadvantaged within the justice system (Hazou, 2017).

Secondly, the trunk of the decolonizing tree can also be found in CellFish, as the production is built upon culturally relevant instances and historical notions of incarnation (Hazou, 2017). The many examples of culturally relevant practices for the Māori include traditional dances such as the haka pōwhiri (Hazou, 2017). In addition, Indigenous understandings inform about the interconnections of family relations and the restoration of balance (Hazou, 2017). CellFish focuses on cultural practices and identity within prisons (Hazou, 2017), satisfying the trunk aspect of the decolonizing tree.

Thirdly, the decolonizing tree’s branches are also found in CellFish in the form of prison theater itself, since the concept of prison theater has influences from the rest of the world (Hazou, 2017). An example of the restorative power of prison theater is the Shakespeare Behind Bars program founded in the United States (Hazou, 2017). Upon finding greatly reduced recidivism rates after offenders attended the program Shakespeare Behind Bars, the foundation of the program was made transferable to other nations. Thus, CellFish and the theories supporting its production are built upon an extremely strong foundation.

Lastly, completing the elements of a decolonized restorative justice practice, is the fruit. Through articles and other ways of disseminating information, productions such as CellFish will be shared with other prison populations and citizens alike. The production conceptualizes healing through the lens of Indigenous approaches to justice and will be influential across all platforms (Hazou, 2017).

Community-Based Restorative Justice 

There have been many successes with community-based justice systems. A community-based justice program was implemented by Augustine Park in Red Deer, Canada which began in 2014 in response to an Indigenous community grieving children who died at residential schools. The restorative program was set in motion to commemorate the children of Indigenous people who were forcibly placed by the Canadian government into abusive residential schools. Other goals set by Augustine Park’s community-based restorative justice practice included claiming cemeteries where Indigenous children were buried, providing education on the topic of residential schools and aiding in reconciliation (Park, 2016). Community-based restorative justice by Augustine Park in Red Deer is a prime example of a practice that can be deconstructed through the decolonizing tree framework.

First, this community-based justice program has great roots within the context of the decolonizing tree framework. The practice was created through a partnership between the Indigenous Church and the Remembering Children Society, both practices consulted throughout the process and are interested in decolonization. Feedback from members and partnerships was encouraged to ensure a voice for local peoples. Moreover, the practice was created within the Cree context and all tactics of justice came from Cree values and approaches, which ensured bottom-up creation (Park, 2016).

Secondly, this community-based restorative justice practice embodied all the vital elements of the trunk. All included elements were culturally relevant and community leaders played a vital role (Park, 2016). Moreover, Indigenous peoples were made central and practices including feasting and spirituality were conducted according to Indigenous beliefs and worldviews, allowing for cultural resurgence (Park, 2016).

Thirdly, the branches of this partnership practice can be understood through the decolonizing tree. The process was developed in the knowledge that culturally relevant practices are important and can be found by reaching out to other successful restorative justice programs. Principles of other community-based restorative practices were also applied in the participants’ interest as they were harm reducing and information oriented (Park, 2016). Importantly, throughout the process of community-based restorative justice there were instances of transformed relationships (Park, 2016).

Finally, the fruit of the decolonizing tree can also be applied to this practice. One of the goals of this community-based restorative justice program was to help other communities who needed closure and could use similar practices. Thus, in ensuring their goal of sharing, this program formed the basis of a restorative practice that was both locally created and locally sourced—and local approaches offer a particularly effective way of achieving justice (Park, 2016).


Limitations are common within the examination of all case studies. Both the production of CellFish and the community-based justice practice are solid examples of decolonized practices that fit the decolonizing tree framework. However, there are limitations related to the examination and analysis of the studies presented. The greatest limitation within this research is that there is no participant feedback. The lack of participant feedback means that the majority of the information presented within the articles comes from the author which in turn creates an absence of reflection by participants. Therefore, through analyses, one has limited access to all accounts within the given practice. When deconstructing restorative justice using a decolonial framework, the absence of multiple accounts and perspectives can be discouraging as decolonization is never limited to only one person or one person’s account of events that took place.


Decolonization of restorative justice practices is needed in post-colonial states. After the mass adoption in the 1990s of restorative justice practices within postcolonial States, their governments began falsely associating Indigenous justice with restorative justice (Tauri, 2021). This Indigenization of restorative justice is extremely harmful and needs to be repaired (Findlay, 2000). Restorative justice practices are supposed to be positive, with a focus on relationship building and offender responsibility (Vogel, 2006). It is time that the greatest offenders, the governments of post-colonial States, take responsibility and ensure the decolonization of justice practices in both macro and micro forms that will allow Indigenous peoples into spaces from which they have been barred.

In the quest to decolonize restorative justice, one must assess the implications of colonization on current justice practices and on Indigenous people and the mainstream populations of colonized States. The implications of colonization include an absence of emotion in criminal proceedings, the Indigenization of restorative justice practices, and the loss of Indigenous identity in postcolonial states. Decolonization can be carried out on spaces, mindsets, and through the establishment or renewal of Indigenous rights (Cunneen, 2006). The use of both macro and micro forms of decolonization will contribute to and promote the overall decolonization of restorative justice practices (Asadullah, 2021). Decolonization of restorative justice is possible for postcolonial societies but must be approached from a reasonable and structured decolonial framework. If justice is to be reimagined in our post-colonial societies, it is up to us to practice restorative justice in the intent of deconstructing colonial values.

Discussion Questions

  1. In what ways have the governments of postcolonial States ensured that Indigenous needs are misrepresented? Please discuss why these misrepresentations are harmful and what can be done at a government level to stop misinformation.
  2. Reflect upon your own understanding of restorative justice. In what ways has your perception changed after reading about the impact of colonization?

Recommended Activity

In order to take the necessary steps to reimagine restorative justice, researchers must take a personal interest in decolonization. When reimagining and deconstructing colonial values it is important to examine one’s own motivations and influences. Much of what we know to be normal and productive is based on colonial values (Breton, 2012). Thus, I would recommend taking time out of your week to do some reflective writing. Ask yourself if any of the practices in your life reflect colonial values. Then, reflect on whether those values are serving you and your community in a positive manner and write down the answers. Once you become comfortable analyzing your own life, you may begin to critically reflect upon what the programs, education and media you submerge yourself in and what ideals are perpetuated throughout such mediums. Remember, decolonization is not supposed to be comfortable.

Recommended Readings

  1. Cunneen, C. (2002). Restorative justice and the politics of decolonization. In 1217458749 906368843 W. E. M. & 1217458750 906368843 H. J. Kerner (Eds.). Restorative justice: Theoretical foundations(pp. 32-42). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
  2. Tauri, J. (2009). An Indigenous perspective on the standardisation of restorative justice in New Zealand and Canada. Retrieved March 21, 2021, from https://ipjournal.wordpress.com/2009/12/16/an-indigenous-perspective-on-the-standardisation-of-restorative-justice-in-new-zealand-and-canada/


Asadullah, M. (2021). Decolonization and Restorative Justice: A Proposed Theoretical Framework. Journal of Decolonization of Criminology and Justice, 3(1), 27-62.

Breton, D. (2012, January 01). Decolonizing restorative justice. Retrieved 26 February 2021, https://read.dukeupress.edu/tikkun/article/27/1/45/30402/Decolonizing-Restorative-Justice

Braun, K. (2019). Victim Perspectives and Criminal Justice. In Victim Participation Rights (Palgrave Studies in Victims and Victimology, pp. 65-86). Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Environment Climate Change Canada. (2021). Canadian environmental sustainability indicators: Number of long-term drinking water advisories on public systems on reserve.  Government of Canada.

Clear, T. R., & Karp, D. R. (2002). What is community justice?: Case studies of restorative justice and community supervision. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Cunneen, C. (2002). Restorative justice and the politics of decolonization. In H. J. Kerner (Eds.). (2002). Restorative justice: Theoretical foundations (pp. 32-42). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Daly, K. (2002). Restorative justice: The Real Story. Punishment & Society, 4(1), 55-79. doi:10.1177/14624740222228464

Diamond, J. M. (1999). Guns, germs, and steel: The fates of human societies. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. doi:10.1017/S0022050700022178

Findlay, M. (2000). Decolonising restoration and justice: Restoration in transitional cultures.  Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, 39(4), 398-411. doi:10.1111/1468-2311.00178

Hand, C. A., Hankes, J., & House, T. (2012). Restorative justice: The indigenous justice system. Contemporary Justice Review, 15(4), 449-467. doi:10.1080/10282580.2012.734576

Hazou, R. (2017). Enacting Restorative Justice: Shakespeare and Tikanga Māori in Cellfish (2017). Australasian Drama Studies, 76, 211-240. Retrieved April 1, 2021, from https://www.academia.edu/43192463/Enacting_Restorative_Justice_Shakespeare_and_Tikanga_Māori_in_Cellfish_2017_

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Decolonization and Justice: An Introductory Overview Copyright © 2022 by Jenna Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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