restorative justice

Restorative Justice is a community response to crime and other misconduct that focuses on addressing the harms done to victims and communities by holding offenders meaningfully accountable for their offenses. 


The goal of Restorative Justice is the creation of safe, healthy communities. Such communities are created when there are opportunities for victims to have their needs addressed and when offenders are integrated into the community as positive, contributing citizens.

Restorative justice practices

Following are examples of practices aligned with restorative justice values and principles that have been implemented by communities and juvenile departments in Oregon. These informational pieces are intended to give a brief summary of the practice. To obtain more complete information about how these practices are carried out, please note the organizational names and links listed after each entry.


RESTORATIVE CONFERENCING

Restorative conferencing is a face-to-face meeting between those involved and impacted by a harmful incident. Based on the principles of restorative justice, the purpose of this dialogue is to meaningfully address the harm, its causes, and its implications for the future. Restorative conferencing emphasizes the involvement and consensus of all relevant stakeholders in the incident, thorough preliminary case preparation, and participant empowerment through flexibility in process design (including cultural needs). Because of the model's inclusion of a potentially large number of stakeholders and its similarities with a conventional "meeting" format, restorative conferencing is often employed in situations where professionals or administrators have a stake in the meeting's outcome. 


RESTORATIVE CIRCLES

Drawing on ancient First Nations, Native American and Aboriginal traditions, and aligned with the values of inclusivity, respect and interconnectedness, Restorative Circles are processes to bring people together for deeper understanding and connection. Restorative Circles create space where all are respected, everyone is given an equal place in the discussion, everyone has an opportunity to talk without interruption, participants share their perspectives through story, and all aspects important to the participating individuals are honored and welcomed. Restorative Circle processes typically include a Circle Keeper or Facilitator, a Talking Piece, agreed upon guidelines or values, some form of Ceremony, and consensus decision-making. Restorative Circles have been utilized in communities or groups to respond to harm, make difficult decisions together, create stronger community, learn from each other, or to respond to existing conflict. Foundational to the transformative nature of Restorative Circles is the natural occurrence of safety resulting from the processes guidelines, structure, and inclusivity.     


VICTIM OFFENDER DIALOGUE/MEETING (VOD/VOM)

A Victim-Offender Dialogue or Meeting (VOD/VOM) is a voluntary, facilitated process which brings together the victim/survivor and offender of a crime or harmful incident. Through this process victims/survivors are given the opportunity to express directly to the offender how they have been impacted by the offender’s actions, ask any questions that may be unanswered regarding the harm, and, in some circumstances, have an active role in determining how the offender can be meaningfully accountable for their actions. Victims/Survivors also are given the chance to hear the offender recount the crime in their own words and to accept responsibility. For the offender, it is an opportunity to take responsibility, learn the human impacts of their actions, and, in some circumstances, to have a direct role in addressing the resulting harm.

Depending on the severity of the impact of the crime or harmful incident, and the individual needs of the participants, the preparation and case development for these dialogues/meetings can range from being single preparation meetings to multiple meetings occurring over the course of 1-2 years. The meeting process, location, and involved participants, can also vary depending on the needs of the participants, the severity of the impact of the crime/harm, and the program administering the process. 


RESTORATIVE COMMUNITY SERVICE (RSC)

RSC re-shapes the purpose and practice of community service to achieve three restorative goals: accountability, integration, and change. A restorative focus for community service brings an intentional effort to strengthen the social fabric of the community through offenders taking active and meaningful responsibility for the harm caused by their actions, and through engaging the community in working side-by-side with these offenders. Through this direct participation, the community plays a key role in providing opportunities for offenders to be integrated into the fabric of the community as positive citizens. Change takes place in young offenders through helping them see themselves as valuable, contributing members of the community. Change takes place for the community as it sees young offenders as individuals who are capable of making a positive contribution to the community. And finally, RCS helps the community see itself as having a critical role in creating safety and well-being by integrating offenders back into the community.


RESTORATIVE COMMUNITY PANELS / COURTS / BOARDS

Restorative panels, courts or boards are community-based programs coordinated for the purposes of providing a community-driven response to low-level crimes/violations and/or low-risk offenders. Many of these groups also provide services to victims of crime and can operate utilizing circle process, conferencing and victim-offender dialogue. These groups represent community in providing support and accountability to the offenders referred to them, and work collaboratively with the offenders (and victims where appropriate) to determine what offenders can do to address the impact of their harmful actions and what support or services they need to be successful moving forward. Referrals can often originate from the criminal justice system as a form of diversion from the system. 


RESTORATIVE PRACTICES IN SCHOOLS

Restorative justice in schools is an alternative to traditional discipline models that utilize suspension and expulsion as a response to conflict and behavior challenges. Rather than excluding students from school when a problem arises, Restorative Justice seeks to establish accountability, repair harm, and provide space for learning and growth.

Restorative justice in schools is not a singular program or process, rather a philosophy and practice based on a core set of principles that emphasizes healing and repair over punishment, inclusion over exclusion, individual accountability with a high level of community support, and building relationship-based school climates where problems are less likely to occur.

Nationally, restorative justice in schools has been recognized as an effective model for replacing zero-tolerance policies, reducing suspensions and expulsions, and reducing disproportionality in exclusions for students of color. Zero tolerance policies contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline and disparities in outcomes for youth of color, the LGTBQ community, youth with disabilities, and those experiencing poverty.


OFFENDER DIALOGUE AND SKILLS GROUPS

In line with restorative values and outcomes, these elicitive groups focus on helping offenders better understand the choices they make, how their choices can cause harm to other people, and their personal obligation to take responsibility for that harm and make amends where possible. In these groups, offenders have an opportunity to explore the thoughts and personal experiences that led up to the harm they caused; explore and examine the direct impacts of the harm they caused as well as the ripple effects on their community; and are provided an opportunity to engage in right relationship while building empathy and recreating their sense of self and their place in the community. In some groups, emphasis is placed on how to concretely make amends for the harms they have caused and to re-envision and implement restoration in their lives moving forward.


RESTORATIVE COACHING

One-on-one coaching with individuals whose behavior caused harm or was in violation of community standards, etc. The coach works with the individual on understanding what happened and why, what the impacts of their behavior were on others and the community at large, options for addressing the impacts, and how to integrate what they've learned as they move forward. This restorative practice is often utilized when it is not possible, feasible, or appropriate to hold a circle or mediation process and can support the individual in making restorative choices in other relationships and areas of their life.


RESTORATIVE VICTIM SERVICES

Restorative Victim Services (RVS) utilizes a restorative justice lens to provide victims/survivors an opportunity to have a meaningful voice and role throughout all phases of the justice process to the extent that they would like to be involved. Priority is placed on providing victims/survivors:

  • acknowledgement that what happened to them is not ok, and that the community takes it seriously;  
  • information about the steps the justice system is taking to address the harm and how the legal process works;  
  • a voice to share about their experience, the impacts the harm has caused, and how the offender might be held accountable in a way that is important to them; and,  
  • an opportunity to meaningfully participate in the justice process.   

In appropriate cases, where it meets expressed needs of the victim/survivor, victims/survivors are invited to participate in restorative justice processes with the offender who caused them harm


VICTIM PANELS

Victims Panels bring together groups of victim/survivors to share their story to men and women that have committed criminal acts. When victim panels are aligned with restorative justice values and principles, the primary goal is that of sharing story, expanding understanding and empathy, recognizing impacts, and building relationship. Restorative victim panels avoid sharing for the purposes of expanding shame or creating fear in those listening, but rely on the natural impact of story-telling to have a positive and transformative impact.   


RESTORATIVE RESTITUTION PAYBACK PROGRAMS

Restorative Restitution Payback Programs offer community-enhancing work projects in which offenders can earn stipends to address their financial obligations to their victims/survivors. Restitution Payback programs that align themselves with restorative justice values and principles emphasize:

  • providing equitable stipends for restitution payback;  
  • supporting offenders in developing practical job skills, therefore strengthening confidence to find meaningful employment in the future;  
  • providing a positive work environment for offenders;  
  • collaboratively oriented work-crew supervisors that work alongside offenders;  
  • collaboration with communities on the work contracts; and,  
  • community-based projects that are meaningful and community-enhancing.

RESTORATIVE PRACTICES IN THE WORKPLACE

In this exciting and new subcategory of Restorative Justice, we encourage employers to replace or at least supplement the traditional workplace discipline model with a more dignified and respectful process that is designed to address problem behavior in a supportive and thoughtful way. This often leads to a positive reintegration of the employee into the team while improving workplace morale and productivity. The traditional response to workplace behavioral problems relies heavily on power, fear and punishment to affect change, whereas this new approach is designed to empower the employee to internally realize how their behavior is impacting others and to engage in repairing harms and restoring positive working relationships.