We define restorative justice as an approach to acts of bias and discrimination that centers the experience of the harmed person and involves all stakeholders to decide what should be done to repair harm, create accountability, and reduce the likelihood of future harm.
Bias and discrimination cause real harm that can impact not just the person who experiences it, but also their families, neighbors, co-workers, and communities. A restorative justice framework can help address that harm and prevent it from happening again by fostering accountability, rather than simply punishing people who commit discrimination.
A common form of restorative justice is a circle, where a facilitator, or “circle keeper,” leads discussion between the person who was harmed, the person who harmed them, and support people. The circle can address the harmful act, its impact, and how the harm can be repaired. Circles often employ a “talking piece” to ensure everyone has a turn to speak and be heard.
Restorative justice is often discussed in conjunction with transformative justice. These two approaches to harm share a foundation of centering the experience of the person who’s been harmed and creating accountability. While restorative justice aims to repair harm and the relationships the harmful act has damaged, transformative justice seeks to transform harmful structures that allowed the harm to occur. This page refers to restorative justice, but many responses to harm may fit under both definitions.
There are numerous online resources to help you learn more about restorative justice and transformative justice. Here are some examples:
Restorative Justice Initiative
OATH Center for Creative Conflict Resolution
Columbia Center for Justice
New York Peace Institute
Center for Court Innovation
Community Dispute Resolution Centers
The Ahimsa Collective
Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice
NYC Transformative Justice Hub
Building Accountable Communities, Barnard Center for Research on Women
Restorative justice has roots in peacemaking and other practices of several ancient and indigenous cultures. Here are some resources where you can learn more about that history:
International Institute of Restorative Practices: History of Restorative Practices
Life Comes From It: Navajo Justice by Chief Justice Robert Yazzie
The Peacemaking Program of the Navajo Nation
Visioning B.E.A.R. Circle Intertribal Coalition