What is Restorative Justice?

Restorative justice is a philosophy and practice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by an incident of wrongdoing or by conflict.

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.

History of Restorative Justice

Restorative Justice as we know it today is rooted in Indigenous practices.

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.