Research and Theory

We conduct research on the efficacy of RJ and help disseminate findings to a wide range of academics and practitioners.

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.

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.

An accessible introduction to campus-based restorative justice by Center for Restorative Justice Director, David Karp. 

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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.

Recent Publications from the Center


Reed, Thomas. 2021. "A Critical Review of the Native American Tradition of Circle Practices." Pp. 132-152 in Indigenous Research of Land, Self, and Spirit, edited by Robin Throne. IGI Global.


Orcutt, Madison, Patricia M. Petrowski, David R. Karp, and Jordan Draper. 2020. “Restorative Justice Approaches to the Informal Resolution of Student Sexual Misconduct.” Journal of College and University Law 45(2).

Bell, Alexandra, Lyle Ashton Harris, and David R. Karp. 2020. “On Navigating Forgiveness, Redemption, and Rejection.” Pp. 230-241 in Culture as Catalyst. Skidmore College.

Giacomini, Nancy Geist, David R. Karp, Derrick D. Dixon and Valerie Glassman. 2020. “Off Script: Incorporating Principles of Conflict Management, Restorative Justice, and Inclusive Excellence into Informal and Formal Adjudication Pathways.” Chapter 12 in Chapter 10 in Reframing Campus Conflict and Student Conduct Practice for Inclusive Excellence, 2nd edition, edited by Jennifer Meyer Schrage and Nancy Geist Giacomini. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishers. Herndon, VA: Stylus.

McMahon, Sheila M. and David R Karp. 2020. “Building Relational and Critical Thinking Skills: The Power of Peer-led RJ Circles Among First Year College Students.” Chapter 10 in Reframing Campus Conflict and Student Conduct Practice for Inclusive Excellence, 2nd edition, edited by Jennifer Meyer Schrage and Nancy Geist Giacomini. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishers. Herndon, VA: Stylus. 

Karp, David R. and Kaaren Williamsen. 2020. Five Things Student Affairs Administrators Should Know about Restorative Justice and Campus Sexual Harm. Washington, DC.: NASPA.


Behel, Jay M.. 2019. “I Shall Be Released.” Restorative Justice Techniques Can Address Healthcare Burnout & Attrition."  Reflective MedEd.

Karp, David R. 2019. “Restorative Justice and Responsive Regulation in Higher Education: The Complex Web of Campus Sexual Assault Policy in the United States and a Restorative Alternative.” Pp. 143-164 in Restorative and Responsive Human Services, edited by Gale Burford, Valerie Braithwaite, and John Braithwaite. New York: Routledge.

Karp, David R. 2019. “A Restorative Justice Approach to Campus Sexual Misconduct.” Council on Contemporary Families Symposium: Defining Consent, edited by Stephanie Coontz, Paula England, and Virginia Rutter.

Lopez, Elise C., Mary P. Koss, David R. Karp, Jay K. Wilgus. 2019. “Restorative Justice for Campus Sexual Misconduct.” Chapter 11 in Adjudicating Campus Sexual Misconduct and Assault: Controversies and Challenges, edited by Claire M. Renzetti and Diane R. Follingstad. San Diego, CA: Cognella.

Wilgus, Jay, David R. Karp, and Kaaren M. Williamsen. 2019. Comment Submitted to Department of Education on Changes to Title IX. Campus PRISM Project Briefing Paper.


Behel, Jay M., and Adrienne S. Lawson. 2018. "Healing the Healers." AAMC News.

Karp, David R. and Megan Schachter. 2018. “Restorative Justice in Colleges and Universities: What Works When Addressing Student Misconduct.” Pp. 247-263 in The Routledge Handbook of Restorative Justice, edited by Theo Gavrielides. New York: Routledge.

McMahon, Sheila M., David R. Karp, and Hayley Mulhern. 2018. “Addressing Individual and Community Needs in the Aftermath of Campus Sexual Misconduct: Restorative Justice as a Way Forward in the Re-Entry Process.” Journal of Sexual Aggression. DOI: 10.1080/13552600.2018.1507488

Sharp, Susan. 2018. Restorative Justice and Catholic Social Tradition: A Natural Alignment. Restorative Justice Network of Catholic Campuses Briefing Paper.


Acosta, David and David R. Karp. 2017. "Restorative Justice as the Rx for Mistreatment in Academic Medicine: Applications to Consider for Learners, Faculty and Staff.” Academic Medicine 93: 354-356. DOI: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002037

Karp, David R. 2017. Next Steps for a Restorative Justice Approach to Campus-Based Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment, Including Sexual Violence. Campus PRISM Project Briefing Paper.


Karp, David R. and Olivia Frank. 2016. “Anxiously Awaiting the Future of Restorative Justice in the United States.” Victims & Offenders 11: 50-70.

Karp, David R. 2016. Distinguishing Restorative Justice from Mediation. Campus PRISM Project Briefing Paper.

Karp, David R., Julie Shackford-Bradley, Robin J. Wilson, and Kaaren M. Williamsen. 2016. Campus PRISM: A Report on Promoting Restorative Initiatives for Sexual Misconduct on College Campuses. Campus PRISM Project Report.

Karp, David R. and Olivia Frank. 2016. “Restorative justice and student development in higher education: Expanding ‘offender’ horizons beyond punishment and rehabilitation to community engagement and personal growth.” Pp. 141-164 in Offenders No More: An Interdisciplinary Restorative Justice Dialogue, edited by Theo Gavrielides. New York: Nova Science Publishers.