Restorative Justice

Restorative Practices and Restorative Justice 

Restorative philosophy is rooted in – and informed by – historically Indigenous philosophy and practice. It offers a relational approach to community building and conflict resolution. 

  • Used proactively to build community culture, Restorative Practices promote introspection, empathy, understanding, equitable decision-making and perspective on diverse viewpoints.
  • Used responsively, Restorative Justice brings together Individuals and community members impacted by a conflict in order to mutually understand the incident and discuss ways to move forward. This approach provides a transformative collective experience of healing through deepened connection and understanding.

The fundamental principles of a Restorative approach are that all humans:

  • Wish to be in good relationship with others; 
  • Need to feel a sense of belonging in order to thrive; 
  • Need to feel seen and heard in order to feel they belong;
  • Are more likely to consider the impact of their actions on others if those challenging their actions are those with whom they are in good relationship; and 
  • Have the capacity to be accountable for their actions when they are supported through a non-judgmental process of self-reflection and perspective-taking. 

In a Proactive Restorative process (or Circle):

  • Participants are invited to share core values and create shared agreements for the culture they aspire to create within the space; 
  • Focus is placed on cultivating a brave space that allows people equal opportunity to be heard and to speak from the heart if they wish; 
  • Participation is not expected to look the same for each person – the choice not to speak, but instead just to listen, is supported and respected;
  • It is recognized that trust in others and in a process does not build at the same rate for every person and participants are encouraged to exercise whatever boundaries they need in order to stay present; and
  • Opportunities for storytelling are centered, which enables participants to connect through shared experiences and reflect on the legitimacy of multiple truths. 

In a Responsive Restorative process (or Community Conference): 

  • Focus is placed on determining what is needed to repair relationships, not on how to punish a person who has caused harm; 
  • Those impacted may find relief from pain, anger, confusion or fear;
  • Some may learn more about the context of the harm – or the community conditions and structural influences that contribute to harmful behaviors; 
  • Others (and potentially all) may experience the transformative impact of individual and collective accountability, as well as a resolution that will support healing, forward movement and long-term learning; and,
  • Communities may be strengthened as members are reintegrated into relationships characterized by respect, responsibility, reciprocity, and equity. 

Restorative Justice Initiative at MCDC

The Mediation Center’s Restorative Justice Initiative offers support in:

  • organizational culture shift; 
  • community conflict resolution; 
  • whole system Restorative implementation; and 
  • education and mentorship in Restorative philosophy and practice.

We serve community agencies and businesses, schools, institutions of higher education, neighbors, families, students, teachers, and staff. Restorative Practices can provide parties with effective ways to prevent and respond to social, cultural, and environmental conflict. Services are tailored to the specific context or incident, and the needs of the individuals.

A key area of interest for the Restorative Justice Initiative is applying Restorative philosophy in educational settings. In schools, learning communities, and youth-focused programs, Restorative Practices provide opportunities for young people to: 

  • be heard and valued for their perspectives; 
  • share their feelings and collectively process with their peers and supportive adults; 
  • build relationships; and 
  • participate in their own processes of problem-solving. 

If you’re an educator looking to bring these practices to your classroom or school, please reach out.

Restorative Practices We Can Share

The Mediation Center provides two main types of Restorative process, though variations on structure are also possible:

  • Restorative Circles primarily focus on building community and shared understanding among a group of people. They can be used to support communication, collective accountability, reinforcement of shared values, in addition to issues of diversity and difference. Where there is disagreement or lack of clarity about fundamental values, Circles can identify differences within a group and collectively develop representative and equitable cultural paradigms.
  • Community Conferences are organized in response to conflict incidents. Conferences involve an extended intake process with all impacted individuals and a follow-up process with all participants. 

Ready to explore restorative practices? Click here to be connected with Claudia Abbott-Barish, Director of Restorative Programs.

Our youth related programs and partnerships are funded by Dutchess County.