Restorative Justice for Colleges & Universities

College campuses across the country are beginning to realize that restorative justice has great promise for handling student misconduct and policy violations. There is increasing interest in implementing restorative justice programs for colleges and universities.

Restorative Justice on college campusMany years ago, higher education operated under the premise of “in loco parentis,” acting on behalf of parents for the good of their students. In recent years, however, the Student Development movement changed the focus of supervision so that an interrelated partnership between the student and the educational environment existed and students could feel both challenge and support from their educational institution. This change in focus, along with the Community Standards movement, enabled restorative justice and its values of democratic participation, inclusion and personal responsibility to work hand in hand with the Student Development movement towards a more engaged form of judicial affairs and community building.

Restorative Principles and Practices Help:

  • hold students who harm accountable for their actions.
  • provide those harmed with a safe place to share how the incident impacted them.
  • give students, faculty and residence hall staff a voice in helping the respondent (offender) make things right.
  • develop an effective alternative to the traditional system of judicial affairs.
  • create a culture of belonging and caring where community standards are relied upon for setting and correcting behavior.

By “making things right,” restorative justice seeks to knit wholeness back into a community which has been torn; it seeks to repair relationships so students can focus on their academic work and reconnect as a member of the learning community.

Restorative Justice Conferencing Process in Colleges

The restorative justice conferencing process brings together the respondent (offender), the person harmed or affected by the offender’s actions, and members of the affected community, possibly including family and friends of either the respondent or the harmed party or parties. The process is facilitated by trained staff or volunteers who follow a set format to create a sense of structure and safety for all involved. Variations of this process include Integrity Boards, Circles, and Victim-Offender Mediation.

Why Implement Restorative Justice?

Restorative Justice on the college campusParticipants in restorative justice processes report being more satisfied; the recidivism rate is lower because respondents (or offenders) feel a greater sense of ownership of the problem and participation in its solution and feel less likely to recommit an offense; and the campus community reports that a stronger sense of community is developed as a result of a process which actively engages the community. Overall, the processes of restorative justice empowers students to take ownership of their mistakes and misconducts and helps the student community take leadership in making things right.

More and more Offices of Judicial Affairs are discovering that there are better ways to deal with student misconduct than simply isolating and punishing students through authoritarian sanctions, suspensions and expulsions. The principles and practices of restorative justice, which have helped transform the field of criminal justice, are showing positive results in transforming the field of judicial affairs.

The Training Modules We Offer for Higher Education are:

  • Introductory Overview of Restorative Justice
  • Basic Training in Restorative Practices and Program Development/Management
  • Training Students and Staff to be Restorative Justice Facilitators
  • Training Students and Staff to be Facilitators for Community Conferences
  • Holding Peacemaking Circles for Large Group Issues

Making A Commitment

We recommend that a campus community take on this work thinking in terms of three to five years: Year One is for beginning and educating; Year Two is for reflecting and refining; Years Three to Five are for deepening and institutionalizing. A campus can choose to incorporate each of these modules over a three year period or it can incorporate one or two of these modules in a one-two year period. Restorative Solutions will coach schools through the process at every step of the way, including facilitating community group conferences, mediating conflicts, and holding peacemaking circles for large group issues.

Contact us to talk about how you can set up a program at your institution or how we can provide advanced level training to your existing program. We have two trainers that have experience at the college and university level.