I share the basics.
Restorative justice discipline is based on ancient principles of addressing the harm resulting from misconduct, rather than focusing on what rule was broken. It defines accountability as healing the harm caused by one’s actions rather than taking the punishment. Conducted in an atmosphere of equal respect for all parties in a conflict or discipline hearing, restorative interventions are almost always facilitated with everyone sitting in a circle at the same height. This equality underscores the harm-doer’s membership in a community that values him/her and intends to hold her/him accountable for making things right as much as possible.
If time allows I talk about how restorative justice is practiced.
The restorative process can generally be broken down into three stages defined by three questions asked respectfully and open to every participant to answer in turn. Those questions are:
- What happened?
- Who has been affected and how? and
- How do we make things right?
If you remember that RJ’s purpose is healing harm, these stages make sense.
What happened? helps the entire group identify the issue that needs healing and often identifies contributing factors and issues.
Who has been affected and how? lays out where the harm lies in the participants (and also potentially in members of the larger community) so circle participants know where to focus the healing.
How do we make things right? introduces the magic of the process because it fulfills restorative justice’s purpose. By defining concrete steps needed to heal the harm, this stage also defines the wrong-doers’ accountability to the community. Once these healing actions take place, the wrong-doers can resume their place as full members of the community.
I often tell my audiences:
Restorative practices might not be appropriate for every situation of misconduct you face. Some situations may not be suitable; some individuals may not meet the requirements to participate; etc. But the restorative philosophy of looking for ways to heal the harm rather than punish the rule-breaker—that is always appropriate. Make restorative justice the way you do business at your school or organization and watch the possibilities for healing, teaching, learning and development expand!
If you would like to schedule a presentation or want to talk further about restorative justice philosophy and practices, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website to learn more!