Restorative Justice

The Center for Restorative Programs is based on the philosophy of “restorative justice,” which defines crime or other offenses as a violation of relationships. Restorative Justice is the process of recognizing the injustice, restoring the equity as much as possible, and providing for a more safe and secure future (focusing on the people and relationships damaged rather than the laws that were broken). In many cases, a face-to-face meeting of the victim and offender has been found to provide a sense of justice, fairness, satisfaction and healing that is otherwise not available through traditional criminal justice processes. This restorative justice model is contrasted with the retributive justice model more typical of our criminal justice system as follows:

Crime violates laws Crime violates relationships
Focus on guilt Focus on needs and responsibilities
Applies punishment Makes things “right”
Adversarial process Agreement by dialogue
State is central Victim and offender are central
Rules are key Assumption of responsibility is key
Win/lose outcomes Needs met and healing occurs on both sides
Community members are separated Community members are brought together
Focus on the past Focus on future


Restorative Discipline*

  • Misbehavior primarily violates relationships
  • Primary victim is one most impacted by the offense. Secondary victims include students, teachers, parents and community
  • Focus on trust and accountability
  • Discipline makes things as right as possible
  • Misbehavior handled with cooperative structure between those in conflict, at earliest point possible
  • Follow-up and accountability structures built in
  • Consequences are reasonable, related, restorative and respectful


Three objectives must be achieved in order to meet the goals of restorative justice: (1) address the victim’s needs and questions, (2) allow the offender to take responsibility for his/her actions, and (3) involve the community in restoring safety and balance. These objectives represent a triad of equal concern for the victim, the offender, and the community. The Center for Restorative Programs seeks a balanced focus on all three in its mission and programs.

For more information about restorative justice, please see more Restorative Justice Resources.


Summarized from Howard Zehr, Changing Lenses

*Adapted from Ron Claassen, c. 1993