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Restorative Practices

Restorative Practices

Harm in any form is a violation of relationships, whether they be close personal relationships or in our roles as community members. Restorative practices work to prevent and repair harm. Hurt people hurt people, so there is value in stopping the cycle. Restorative practices work to achieve a shift in our environment as people learn more about each other and their needs through sharing their stories and participation in decision-making.


Circles find their roots in the cultures of many indigenous peoples as a common means to provide support for people dealing with a wide variety of issues. The circle symbolizes the cycles and interdependence of all forms of life found in the natural world and provides equity where no one person is elevated to a position of power during the conversation. The circle supports those who share their struggles and harms and participants explore ways to support them and address their needs.

While circles can be used to address harm after the fact, they are the most common preventative restorative practice supported by Mediation West. Circles are effective in proactively building relationships and understanding amongst people before harm occurs. Participants have the opportunity to hear and be heard in an atmosphere of safety. By getting to know each other through this process, participants continually mature in their views of others as people. When people are seen as valuable individuals rather than objects to be acted upon, increase in tolerance and empathy naturally lead to a reduction in harm. 

Some important elements of a circle are:

  • Participants have an equal opportunity to speak
  • Rules and decisions are made by consensus
  • While there are one or two people entrusted to be circle keepers, the group self-regulates with the goal of not expelling people from the group.

Truancy / Excessive Absenteeism Conference 

Conferences for students experiencing attendance problems are meant to be conversations with students and their families rather than gathering professionals to talk to them.

The conference aims to identify areas where he student shows strength and learn more about his/her interests and goals, as well as the root causes of absenteeism and the barriers of getting the student to school. The group also discusses the impacts missing school has had, both in terms of relationships and academics. The family will work to generate options to solve the core issues and what consequences there should be if the plan is not followed. 

Restorative Justice

Retributive vs. Restorative Justice

This table illustrates the differences in the approach to justice between Retributive Justice and Restorative Justice. As you will see, Restorative Justice is much more community centric and focuses on making the victim whole.

Retributive Justice

Restorative Justice

Crime is an act against the state, a violation of a law, an abstract idea

Crime is an act against another person and the community

The criminal justice system controls crime

Crime control lies primarily in the community

Offender accountability defined as taking punishment

Accountability defined as assuming responsibility and taking action to repair harm

Crime is an individual act with individual responsibility

Crime has both individual and social dimensions of responsibility

Punishment is effective:

  • Threats of punishment deter crime
  • Punishment changes behavior

Punishment alone is not effective in changing behavior and is disruptive to community harmony and good relationships

Victims are peripheral to the process

Victims are central to the process of resolving a crime.

The offender is defined by deficits

The offender is defined by capacity to make reparation

Focus on establishing blame or guilt, on the past (did he/she do it?)

Focus on the problem solving, on liabilities/obligations, on the future (what should be done?)

Emphasis on adversarial relationship

Emphasis on dialogue and negotiation

Imposition of pain to punish and deter/prevent

Restitution as a means of restoring both parties; goal of reconciliation/restoration

Community on sideline, represented abstractly by state

Community as facilitator in restorative process

Response focused on offender’s past behavior

Response focused on harmful consequences of offender’s behavior; emphasis is on the future

Dependence upon proxy professionals

Direct involvement by participants

Sometimes referred to as Community Justice, Restorative Justice (RJ) processes seek to bring together those that have caused harm and have been harmed and their supporters the opportunity to talk about what happened and how it affected them in hopes the harm caused can be repaired, in part in wholly. 

The most common processes we use at the center are Victim Youth Conferencing (VYC) (link to Juv Justice Page) and Victim Impact Mediation for adults.

Traditional Justice Asks: 

  • What law was broken? 
  • Who broke It? 
  • What is the punishment? 

Restorative Justice Asks: 

  • What happened? 
  • Who was affected? 
  • How can the harm be repaired?

These processes have been compared to a three-legged stool that seeks to balance the needs of the victim, offender and community while assisting the judicial system.

When you’ve been harmed:

  • Voice how the crime impacted your life;
  • Be seen as a real person, not as an object or target; 
  • Seek answers about the incident that only the offender can provide; 
  • Be directly involved in creating a plan that repairs the harm and holds an offender accountable to you.

When you’ve caused harm:

  • Explain your actions;
  • Take responsibility for your actions rather than just being punished by the system;
  • Work to repair the harm your actions have caused; 
  • Be directly involved in creating an agreement that is achievable for you and meaningful to the victim; 
  • Be seen as a person, not as a monster or criminal.

The Community Benefits by:

  • Increasing restoration of losses;
  • Reducing repeat crimes by offenders;
  • Modeling healthier ways to resolve conflicts;
  • Training and empowering volunteers outside of government framework promote good will.

The judicial system benefits by:

  • Increasing victim and community participation in, and satisfaction with, the justice process; 
  • Shifting the time and cost associated with screening and reparation tracking to the mediation center;
  • Freeing resources for Courts, law enforcement, and justice agencies to service other cases.

How does the RJ Process work?: (replace with info graphic before going live)

  • Referral
  • Individual Session
  • Sharing Session: Parties may choose to meet face-to-face, or a surrogate may represent the harmed individual
    • The harming individual take responsibility
    • The harmed individual speaks effects
  • Reparation Agreement

Click here to open a case for your organization to be paid by voucher, MOU or direct bill

Click here to open a case for your organization, or for yourself, by making a minimum deposit of $439

Click here to initiate a referral for Restorative or Juvenile Justice services