About Restorative Justice

Restorative justice (RJ) is a philosophical approach that embraces the reparation of harm, healing of trauma, reconciliation of interpersonal conflict, reduction of social inequality, and reintegration of people who have been marginalized and outcast. RJ embraces community empowerment and participation, multipartial facilitation, active accountability, and social support. A central practice of restorative justice is a collaborative decision-making process that includes harmed parties, people who caused harm, and others to seek a resolution that includes: (a) accepting and acknowledging responsibility for harmful behavior, (b) repairing the harm caused to individuals and the community, and (c) working to rebuild trust by showing understanding of the harm, addressing personal issues, and building positive social connections.

Ross CoverThe cover art from Rupert Ross' excellent RJ book, Returning to the Teachings, is by indigenous artist, Randy Charbonneau. It is entitled "Restorative Justice and Transforming Society" and the inscription reads: "At the beginning of time, the Anishinabe (the original people) had ways of dealing with justice within the community. The circle was known to be the place of no end. It created a space where one's voice could be heard--where the capacity, the connection, the creativity of the community found a place of being, by bringing people together to repair the harm that had been done. A victim's voice, an offender's voice, the community's voice, no longer ignored, shamed or victimized. A place of compassion, connection, sacredness, voice and truth."

TV interview taking place, between David Karp and host. Play Video
25-minute overview of restorative justice by David Karp, Director of the Center for Restorative Justice.

Restorative justice is a global social movement with many traditions and approaches. Restorative Justice Online maintains a database of articles about restorative justice from around the world.

Restorative conferencing is a facilitated process guided by a scripted series of questions that help identify and repair harm. It has its roots in the indigenous Maori justice process in New Zealand. Conferencing became popularized worldwide in the 1990s as a result of research by the prominent Australian law professor John Braithwaite. In 1998 in Baltimore, Maryland, Lauren Abramson founded the Community Conference Center, now called Restorative Response Baltimore, one of the most active restorative justice centers in the U.S.

Victim-offender dialogues are an unscripted variation of conferencing originating in 1978 with a small program in Elkhart, Indiana by Howard Zehr. Often called the grandfather of restorative justice, Zehr became a professor at Eastern Mennonite University and published many seminal books on RJ. In the 1980s, Mark Umbreit, a social work professor at the University of Minnesota, further developed VOD as an evidence-based practice and founded the Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking.

Circle practices draw on Native American and Canadian First Nations traditions. Circle facilitators invite participants to answer questions by passing a talking piece that provides each person equal opportunity to participate. Circles became popular with the 1996 publication of Rupert Ross' Returning to the Teachings: Exploring Aboriginal Justice and the 2003 Peacemaking Circles: From Crime to Community, by Kay Pranis, Barry Stuart, and Mark Wedge. Circles are used widely as a means to build community, respond to crime or misconduct, and to offer support for people returning to a community after incarceration or suspension.

Truth and Reconciliation Commissions are public inquiries into past harms, providing a community with the opportunity to explore the nature of the harm and for individuals to articulate the impact as well as express remorse. The first TRC took place in Uganda in 1974 and the most well-known is the South Africa TRC of the 1990s led by Bishop Desmond Tutu. He wrote about it in No Future Without Forgiveness.

A Short List of Some Great RJ Books

Armour, Marilyn and Mark Umbreit. 2018. Violence, Restorative Justice, and Forgiveness. Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Boyes-Watson, Carolyn. 2008. Peacemaking Circles and Urban Youth. St. Paul, MN: Living Justice Press.

Boyes-Watson, Carolyn and Kay Pranis. 2015. Circle Forward: Building a Restorative School Community. St. Paul, MN: Living Justice Press.

Braithwaite, John. 1989. Crime, Shame, and Reintegration. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Braithwaite, John. 2002. Restorative Justice and Responsive Regulation. New York: Oxford University Press.

Burnett, Nick and Margaret Thorsborne. 2015. Restorative Practice and Special Needs. Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Davis, F. E. (2019). The Little Book of Race and Restorative Justice: Black Lives, Healing, and US Social Transformation. Good Books.

Karp, David R. 2019. The Little Book of Restorative Justice in Colleges and Universities. New York: Good Books.

Llewellyn, Jennifer and Daniel Philpott. 2014. Restorative Justice, Reconciliation, and Peacebuilding. New York: Oxford.

Mills, Linda. 2008. Violent Partners: A Breakthrough Plan for Ending the Cycle of Abuse. New York: Basic Books.

Morrison, Brenda. 2007. Restoring Safe School Communities: A Whole School Response to Bullying, Violence and Alienation. Federation.

Pranis, Kay, Barry Stuart, and Mark Wedge. 2003. Peacemaking Circles. St. Paul, MN: Living Justice Press.

Pranis, Kay. 2005. The Little Book of Circle Processes. New York: Good Books.

Riestenberg, Nancy. 2012. Circle in the Square: Building Community and Repairing Harm in School. St. Paul, MN: Living Justice Press.

Ross, Rupert. 1996. Returning to the Teachings: Exploring Aboriginal Justice. New York: Penguin.

Rossner, Meredith. 2013. Just Emotions: Rituals of Restorative Justice. New York: Oxford University Press.

Sered, Danielle. 2019. Until We Reckon: Violence, Mass Incarceration and a Road to Repair. New York: New Press. 

Stutzman Amstutz, Lorraine and Judy Mullet. 2005. The Little Book of Restorative Discipline for Schools.Intercourse, PA: Good Books.

Thorsborne, Margaret and Peta Blood. 2013. Implementing Restorative Practice in Schools: A Practical Guide to Transforming School Communities. Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Tutu, Desmond. 2000. No Future Without Forgiveness. New York: Penguin Random House.

Umbreit, Mark and Marilyn Peterson Armour. 2010. Restorative Justice Dialogues: A Research-Based Approach to Working with Victims, Offenders, Families and Communities. New York: Springer.

Wadhwa, Anita. 2016. Restorative Justice in Urban Schools. New York: Routledge.

Winn, Maisha T. 2018. Justice on Both Sides: Transforming Education Through Restorative Justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Valandra, E. C. (2020). Colorizing Restorative Justice: Voicing Our Realities. Living Justice Press.

Zehr, Howard. 1990. Changing Lenses. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press.

Zehr, Howard. 2002. The Little Book of Restorative Justice. Intercourse, PA: Good Books.