The passive acts of placing and accepting blame. Passive responsibility is imposed by an outside source. For example, a teacher may deem a student responsible for hurting a classmate’s feelings, or a judge may deem someone responsible for a crime. The process of passive responsibility determines who bears responsibility and then disciplines them. For that reason, passive responsibility is most frequently seen in punitive justice processes where someone is blamed or deemed “responsible” for a certain crime and is punished accordingly.
Active responsibility arises from within an actor (person, group, institution) and emphasizes ongoing actions they take to repair harm, restore relationships and prevent future harm. It is the actions to repair, restore, and prevent that associates active responsibility with restorative justice. In contrast to passive responsibility, the actor willingly takes responsibility, rather than having it imposed on them by another. The actor must ask what is to be done and the process does not end after an actor begins to take responsibility. Instead, active responsibility requires ongoing engagement with all other actors involved in the harm as a result of the actor’s desire to truly address harm.« Back to Glossary Index