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Restorative justice is a collaborative process that brings together the involved parties to address what happened, the impacts and needs of all involved, and what can be done to repair the harm that has been caused.
Storytelling and recognizing the harms that the stakeholders have experienced is at the center of a restorative dialogue. This community-centered approach embraces active accountability, listening, and repair. Restorative justice is also a relational approach to conflict and wrongdoing focusing on meeting the needs of victims, offenders, and the community, rather than a punitive one where the focus is primarily on the violation and punishment.
This collaborative process invites the participants to identify and address the needs of the parties and may result in a restorative agreement in which participants mutually develop a plan with resolutions specific to the harm or incident. To ensure a successful process, restorative justice is voluntary and requires the responsible party(ies) to take accountability for the harm and to be willing to repair the harm caused.
Restorative justice is rooted in the philosophy of justice held by Indigenous people in North America, Africa, New Zealand, and First Nation communities around the world.
The Indigenous peacemaking process involves bringing the community, victim, and offender together to resolve conflict and maintain harmony in the community and ensure that those involved in conflict remain in the community. While commonly discussed as a reactive approach to harm, it is also used proactively to prevent conflict by creating a community-centered culture where all members recognize their value and the value of others.
Robert Yazzie, retired Chief Justice of the Navajo Nation Supreme Court, details the philosophy and practices of Navajo peacemaking here.
“While some of these methods may share an intersection with Indigenous practices or even be derived from them in some instances, Westernized restorative justice often differs from traditional Indigenous practices on a fundamental level.” (Montana Innocence Project, 2020)
The Restorative Justice Coalition of MSU Denver is dedicated to honoring the Indigenous roots of Restorative Justice and is working to educate members and the broader campus community on the Indigenous roots of restorative justice and Indigenous peacemaking practices.
Many universities and colleges have adopted restorative practices on their campuses to address conflict and wrongdoing. MSU Denver is interested in assessing opportunities for restorative justice in our community. We are particularly interested in how it helps to build and support our MSU Denver community by:
In practice, restorative justice may receive referrals from many sources, such as:
Restorative justice often feels like a shift in orientation towards conflict, crime, and wrongdoing, however, restorative justice is deeply rooted in different indigenous cultural practices from around the world. Restorative justice challenges dominant American and Western notions of accountability and justice, pushing us to see a different way of addressing harm. Restorative justice does not just consider the wrongdoing, but to be transformative, prioritizes relationships and looks at what holistically contributed (individually and systematically) to what occurred.
Key in accepting restorative practices has been recognizing the harms created by traditional systems of justice, including economic impacts, mass incarceration, the school-to-prison pipeline, and disparities in school discipline. Dominant mechanisms of discipline have also diminished local, indigenous, or community-based methods of addressing harm, creating gaps in cultural responsiveness and opportunities for systemic oppression.
Traditionally, higher education institutions have implemented codes of conduct as a system to address violations of community standards. The MSU Denver Dean of Students Office recognizes that historical approaches to student conduct have contributed to systems of oppression and racial inequities. It can also be insufficient in addressing the needs and harms that have resulted from wrongdoing and be dissatisfying for those involved. The Dean of Students Office has committed to reviewing and making changes to MSU Denver’s Student Code of Conduct and conduct processes, which have been historically centered in dominant notions of accountability by mirroring the criminal justice system in process and language.
Restorative Justice is not limited to campus conflict. While the focus of the Coalition is to implement restorative practices on campus, Coalition members will gain experience and knowledge that will go far beyond MSU Denver.
Restorative Justice is a growing philosophy being implemented in many areas nationwide. Denver Public Schools is heading the implementation of Restorative Justice in K-12 to fight systemic racism, implicit bias, and the school to prison pipeline.
Restorative Justice is a growing career field, with opportunities in schools, mediation, pre-trial diversion programs, social work, youth programs, and more!
Coalition members will gain experience working in Restorative Justice and communicating the ideals, values, and importance of Restorative Justice in a professional setting. Coalition members will leave MSU Denver prepared to enter the growing workforce within Restorative Justice.