According to Braithwaite (2004), restorative justice is: ... a process where all stakeholders affected by an injustice have an opportunity to discuss how they have been affected by the injustice and to decide what should be done to repair the harm. With crime, restorative justice is about the idea that because crime hurts, justice should heal. It follows that conversations with those who have been hurt and with those who have afflicted the harm must be central to the process. The process of restorative justice necessitates a shift in responsibility for addressing crime.
In a restorative justice process, the citizens who have been affected by a crime must take an active role in addressing that crime. Although law professionals may have secondary roles in facilitating the restorative justice process, it is the citizens who must take up the majority of the responsibility in healing the pains caused by crime.  According to Zehr and Mika (1998), there are three key ideas that support restorative justice. First is the understanding that the victim and the surrounding community have both been affected by the action of the offender and, in addition, restoration is necessary.
Second, the offender's obligation is to make amends with both the victim and the involved community. Third, and the most important process of restorative justice, is the concept of 'healing,' or the collaborative unburdening of pain for the victim, offender, and community. All parties engage in creating agreements in order to avoid recidivism and to restore safety for how the wrongdoing can be righted which allows the victim to have direct say in the judgment process. This gives offenders the opportunity to understand the harm they have caused, while demonstrating to the community that the offender might also have suffered prior harm.
Healing by reintegration of offenders into the community, strives to restore harmony, health, and well-being by comprising personal accountability, decision-making and the putting right of harm.  This inclusion as opposed to exclusion, demonstrates the capability of transformation of the administration of criminal justice, mental health, psychology and public policy norms. Examples of healing include: victim offender mediation, conferencing, healing circles, victim and ex-offender assistance, restitution, and community service, each method healing in different ways.
Restorative justice principles are characterized by four key values: first, the encounter of both parties. This step involves the offender, the victim, the community and any other party who was involved in the initial crime. Second, the amending process takes place. In this step, the offender(s) will take the steps necessary to help repair the harm caused. Third, reintegration begins. In this phase, restoration of both the victim and the offender takes place. In addition, this step also involves the community and others who were involved in the initial crime.
Finally, the inclusion stage provides the open opportunity for both parties to participate in finding a resolution. The process of restorative justice is lengthy and must be committed to by both parties for effective results. Restorative justice is defined as: ... a growing social movement to institutionalize peaceful approaches to harm, problem-solving and violations of legal and human rights. These range from international peacemaking tribunals such as the South Africa Truth and Reconciliation Commission to innovations within the criminal and juvenile justice systems, schools, social services and communities.
Rather than privileging the law, professionals and the state, restorative resolutions engage those who are harmed, wrongdoers and their affected communities in search of solutions that promote repair, reconciliation and the rebuilding of relationships. Restorative justice seeks to build partnerships to reestablish mutual responsibility for constructive responses to wrongdoing within our communities. Restorative approaches seek a balanced approach to the needs of the victim, wrongdoer and community through processes that preserve the safety and dignity of all.
" Restorative justice is very different from either the adversarial legal process or that of civil litigation. J. Braithwaite writes, "Court-annexed ADR (alternative dispute resolution) and restorative justice could not be philosophically further apart", because the former seeks to address only legally relevant issues and to protect both parties' rights, whereas restorative justice seeks "expanding the issues beyond those that are legally relevant, especially into underlying relationships.
" Similarly, citing Greif, Liebmann wrote a way of looking at restorative justice is to think of it as a balance among a number of different tensions: a balance between the therapeutic and the retributive models of justice a balance between the rights of offenders and the needs of victims a balance between the need to rehabilitate offenders and the duty to protect the public.  Traditional criminal justice seeks answers to three questions: What laws have been broken? Who did it?
and What do the offender(s) deserve? Restorative justice instead asks: Who has been harmed? What are their needs? Whose obligations are these? In criminal cases, victims can testify about the crime's impact upon their lives, receive answers to questions about the incident, and participate in holding the offender accountable. Offenders can tell their story of why the crime occurred and how it has affected their lives. They are given an opportunity to directly compensate the victim—to the degree possible.
 In criminal cases, this can include money, community service in general and/or specific to the offense, education to prevent recidivism, and/or expression of remorse. In social justice cases, impoverished victims such as foster children are given the opportunity to describe their future hopes and make concrete plans to transition out of state custody in a group process with their supporters.  In social justice cases, restorative justice is used for problem solving.
 Restorative justice can proceed in a courtroom or within a community or nonprofit organization. A courtroom process might employ pretrial diversion, dismissing charges after restitution. In more serious cases, a prison sentence may precede other restitution.  In the community, concerned individuals meet with all parties to assess the experience and impact of the crime. Offenders listen to victims' experiences, preferably until they are able to empathize with the experience.
Then they speak to their own experience: how they decided to commit the offense. A plan is made for prevention of future occurrences, and for the offender to address the damage to the injured parties. All agree. Community members hold the offender(s) accountable for adherence to the plan. While restorative justice typically involves an encounter between the offender and the victim, some organizations, such as the Mennonite Central Committee Canada, emphasize a program's values over its participants.
This can include programs that only serve victims (or offenders for that matter), but that have a restorative framework. Indigenous groups are using the restorative justice process to try to create more community support for victims and offenders, particularly the young people. For example, different programs are underway at Kahnawake, a Mohawk reserve in Canada, and at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation of the Oglala Lakota nation, within the United States.