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Skidmore College
Project on Restorative Justice

About Restorative Justice

Restorative Justice 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, offenders, and others who are seeking to hold offenders accountable by having them:

  • Accept and acknowledge responsibility for their offenses,
  • to the best of their ability, repair the harm they caused to harmed parties and the community, and
  • Work to rebuild trust by showing understanding of the harm, addressing personal issues, and building positive social connections. 

Here is a 25-minute overview of restorative justice by David Karp, Director of the Skidmore College RJ Project.

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 process that 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 mediated dialogues began in 1978 with a small program in Elkhart, Indiana by Howard Zehr. Often called the grandfather of restorative justice, Zehr recently retired from his professorship at Eastern Mennonite University. In the 1980s, Mark Umbreit, a social work professor at the University of Minnesota, further developed VOM/D 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. They 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 response to crime, to address school misconduct, and to offer support for offenders returning to the community from prison.

Artwork, by Randy Charbonneau, entitled "Restorative Justice and Transforming Society"

This is the cover image from Rupert Ross' book, Returning to the Teachings. The artwork, by Randy Charbonneau, is entitled "Restorative Justice and Transforming Society." The description in the book reads:

"It was the turtle who offered his back when a foundation was needed to re-create Mother Earth. 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."


Introduction to RJ

Here are two short introductions from Brave New Films. The first makes a straightforward case of why RJ is important and the second provides a case example from Los Angeles.

Great Britain has implemented RJ widely. The non-profit Restorative Justice Council has produced two introductory videos to help explain RJ to the public:


General Restorative Justice Websites 

Academic Programs Examining Restorative Justice


A Short List of 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.

Karp, David R. 2015. 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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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