At CCR all of our processes are based on the principles of restorative justice; involving everyone effected by harm in creating solutions that meet the needs created by harm. At CCR we know that people are capable of solving problems in their lives when they are supported by respectful processes that encourage responsibility, creativity and collaboration.
What Is Restorative Justice?
Howard Zehr, Eastern Mennonite University professor emeritus provides the following definition: “Restorative Justice is a process to involve, to the extent possible, those who have a stake in a specific offense and to collectively identify and address harms, needs, and obligations, in order to heal and put things as right as possible.”
Restorative Justice brings a victim, an offender (‘core-participants’) and community members together for cleansing and respectful conversations that can lead to healing. All parties are empowered to solve issues and all voices are valued for what they bring. While the criminal justice system focuses on offenders, making sure they get what they deserve, restorative justice focuses on the needs of ‘core-participants’ (victims and offenders) and their communities.
The justice system asks these questions:
- What law was broken?
- Who broke it?
- What punishment is warranted?
“The Little Book of Restorative Justice,” by Howard Zehr, states that the guiding questions of RJ are:
- Who has been hurt?
- What are their needs?
- Whose obligations are these?
- Who has a stake in this situation?
- What is the appropriate process to involve stakeholders in an effort to put things right?
Restorative Justice may be used to address harm in families, schools, communities, workplaces and the justice system.
Restorative Discipline, a form of Restorative Justice, helps children and youth in schools and in families find their internal locus of control instead of relying on authority figures to manage their behavior.
Does Restorative Justice work?
Restorative justice is not a new concept. Many cultures use similar processes of engagement and communication when dealing with harm. Indigenous cultures in Canada and the U.S. have used and still use restorative processes to deal with harm. Our current criminal justice system punishes offenders by separating them from their community. This causes ‘stigmatizing’ shame for the individual, their families and their community. Restorative justice utilizes ‘re-integrative’ shame to acknowledge the harm, then decides, as a community, how to meet the needs created by the harm. When restorative justice is utilized in the criminal justice system, it can reduce violence, incarceration, desires for revenge and monetary and emotional costs to the community. Victim satisfaction following harm is greatly increased when they not only have a voice in the process, but help to decide outcomes.
Restorative Justice in courts:
- A diversion program in Sonoma County, Calif., touts a 10 percent rate of re-offending, 90 percent plan completion rates, and over 90 percent victim satisfaction with restorative justice processes.
- An in-custody adult restorative justice program in San Bruno County, Calif., showed a decrease in violent re-offending by 82.6 percent after only 16 weeks of participation.
- A 2007 University of Wisconsin study found that Barron County’s restorative justice program led to significant declines in youth violence, arrests, crime and recidivism. Five years after the program began, violent juvenile offenses decreased almost 49 percent and overall juvenile arrest rates decreased almost 45 percent.
- New Zealand’s juvenile justice system adopted a nation-wide, family-focused restorative approach in 1989 and, today, juvenile incarceration is virtually obsolete for crimes other than homicides. Seventy percent of youth participants have no further contacts with the justice system and youth detention facilities are being shut down.
Restorative discipline in schools:
- A program at Cole Middle School in West Oakland, Calif., eliminated violence and expulsions and reduced the rate of suspensions by more than 75 percent.
- In 2009, the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) published “Findings from Schools Implementing Restorative Practices,”which highlighted outcomes from six Pennsylvania schools that ranged from urban to rural and impoverished to middle class. All six schools witnessed significant drops in suspensions, expulsions, disruptive behavior, reoffending, violence and discipline referrals. A nine-minute video about the dramatic impact of restorative practices at one of the schools in the study may be found at http://www.iirp.org/westphilahigh/.
- Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest school district in the nation, achieved a 92 percent decrease in the number of days lost to suspensions as a result of its restorative discipline program. In the 2007-2008 school year, a total of 74,765 days were lost to suspensions, but that number plummeted to 6,221 in the 2014-2015 school year. Expulsions were down by nearly half, from 141 in 2011-2012 to only 77 in 2014-2015.
Do we need Restorative Justice processes in our community?
Consider the following statistics from “Cradle to Prison Pipeline Missouri:”
- In the United States, the prison industry plans for future bed space needs by counting the number of third graders in schools with the expectation that about 15 percent of those children will be incarcerated within 10 years.
- There are as many as 400 youth under the age of 18 incarcerated in adult correctional facilities in Missouri for violent crimes.
- Gunfire has killed more than 100,000 children and teens in America over a 20-year period.
Restorative Justice Processes at the Center for Conflict Resolution
- CCR takes restorative justice processes to schools, churches and community centers to teach and model possibilities for peaceful conflict resolution that involve face-to-face encounters and collaborative problem solving.
- CCR uses restorative justice processes in the neighborhood accountability board (NAB) program, prison reentry circles, victim/offender dialogue and family group conferencing.
- CCR provides restorative discipline, circle facilitation, bullying prevention workshops to school administrators and teachers.