Restorative justice is a technique usually utilized in Ontario courts for young offenders. Giving you an example of it would be a young offender who is caught shoplifting. In the criminal justice system the youth would be taken before a judge, would plead guilty or be found guilty after a trial, and a penalty would be imposed.
A typical penalty for a shoplifting of a youth would be a probationary term requiring them to stay out of the shop from which they took, and perhaps return the item or do a small amount of community service, five to ten maybe.
Whereas a restorative justice program actually brings the youth together with the individual they harmed – community member, shop, store. It makes them sit down and face their offender. It makes them do further things to put the community back into a restored, just state. It often involves greater community service work, it involves bringing home a message to the youth, and studies have shown that restorative justice is a very positive way that, while the youth avoids a criminal conviction, they do find that youths are less likely to recommit offences and that there is a greater investment in the community by the youth that requires them to do more through a restorative justice program than they would have been had they been found guilty.