Restorative justice offers a conflict-resolution method that emphasizes repairing harm done to members of the community rather than concentrating on blame and punishment. The parties involved in the incident collaborate to create a resolution that fulfills their needs, discourages future misconduct, and restores the community’s trust in the responsible party. Trained facilitators guide the process.
Benefits of the Restorative Justice Process
- Invites voluntary involvement
- Empowers participants
- Encourages collaborative decision-making
- Supports community values
- Remains confidential
As a result of participating in the restorative justice process, a student should be able to:
- Demonstrate effective communication skills.
- Explain the impact personal actions can have on others.
- Create positive connections to the campus community.
- Describe the restorative justice process.
Restorative Justice Participants
The parties involved in a restorative justice circule will vary depending on the situation. However most circles involve the following individuals and/or their proxy:
- Two trained facilitators: our facilitators are OCS staff members and/or trained members of the Stanford community who serve as ongoing restorative justice program volunteers.
- Responsible parties
- Harmed parties
- Community members
- Supporting parties: both the responsible and the harmed parties have the option of bringing a support person to the circle. Support persons may participate as much or as little as desired in the circule.
Initiating the Restorative Justice Process
Stanford community members can request a restorative justice circle by contacting the Office of Community Standards. It is not necessary to file an allegation that a policy violation may have occurred. Restorative justice serves to repair interpersonal disputes or incidents that involve a harmful impact on the greater community. If all parties are willing to work together towards a resolution, restorative justice can be an effective way to reach a facilitated agreement.
Some concerns that are initially reported to the Office of Community Standards as possible Fundamental Standard violations may be referred to restorative justice circles for resolution. A referral to restorative justice may occur if
- The Office of Community Standards determines that restorative justice is appropriate based on the nature of the allegation; and
- The responding student has taken responsibility for the action that caused the harm; and
- The reporting party agrees to participate in the process.
Implementing the Restorative Justice Process
There are three elements in the restorative justice process: a pre-circle consultation, the restorative justice circle and implementation of any resolution.
1. A facilitator meets with the participants separately prior to the actual restorative justice circle. During this meeting, participants acquire information about the process, address any apprehensions, determine if they want to invite a support person to join the circle, and provide information to the facilitator.
2. The restorative justice circle is a structured conversation with defined stages:
- Each person tells their story, describing the event and its impact on them, to foster a comprehensive understanding of the incident.
- Participants, assisted by the facilitators, determine what harms occurred. Harms generally can be classified as physical/material, emotional/spiritual, or relational/communal. One incident can often produce multiple types of harm.
- The group determines possible ways to repair those harms.
- The participants agree upon the specific actions to be taken to repair the harms. The outcome of any restorative justice circle is unique to that group but some commonly used resolutions are restitution, apologies, community service, increased campus involvement, or educational activities such as research papers or public presentations.
3. After the restorative justice circle is concluded, participants take responsibility for completing the agreed upon actions. The Office of Community Standards monitors the agreement.
Learn More About Restorative Justice
- Restorative Justice at Colleges and Universities, David Karp
- Howard Zehr’s Restorative Justice Blog Eastern Mennonite University
- “With ‘Restorative Justice’, Colleges Strive to Educate Student Offenders”, Chronicle of Higher Education