Restorative Practices

Restorative Practice is an approach that strengthens relationships between individuals and builds social connections within communities. Restorative practices seek to shift a traditional, punitive mindset to recognize opportunity for growth, learning and productive conversation.

Key principles of restorative practices

Inclusive decision making Community members closely involved in the incident will contribute to the conversation on how best to move forward.

Repairing harm

The process will focus on supporting all involved parties with an emphasis on uplifting those who have been harmed and providing opportunities for the individual(s) who may have caused the harm, even if unintentional, to be offered tools to learn and grow from the experience.
Rebuilding trust The process will aim to provide opportunities for all involved parties to find solutions to continue to work with one another in safe and collaborative spaces.
Active accountability As a part of the process is it necessary that the individual(s) who caused harm take responsibility for their actions and be committed to learning from the experience.
(Karp, D.R, The Little Book of Restorative Justice for Colleges and Universities, 2019)

A brief history on restorative practices

Foundational practices reflect the approach of ancient and indigenous cultures around the world (i.e. circle practices).

As we look at restorative practices today, restorative justice by way of restorative conferencing emphasizes repairing harm, facilitating pathways for mediation and reconciliation between community members.

How are restorative practices implemented?

Restorative Practices can be implemented through a number of different methods, which the parties explore collaboratively. Participation in restorative practices is completely voluntary. Common restorative practices include, but are not limited to, community building circles and restorative conferences.  

A community building circle is a versatile restorative practice that can be used proactively, to develop relationships and build community or reactively, to respond to wrongdoing, conflicts and problems. Circles give people an opportunity to speak and listen to one another in an atmosphere of safety, decorum and equality.

A restorative conference is a structured meeting between those who have caused harm and those who have been impacted by the harm. During the conference, they discuss and decide how best to repair the harm. The restorative conference usually takes place after an incident and the pesons who have been harmed and those who caused the harm are identified. Prior to the facilitation of the restorative conference, the facilitator(s) will meet with all parties involved to discuss the incident and to assess their readiness for the process. In order for this to be effective both parties must be committed and open to the process. Unlike a community building circle, the restorative conference facilitator sticks strictly to a script and each participant is asked restorative questions. At the end of every conference, a restorative agreement, that includes all participants’ input, is drafted and outlines how the harm will be repaired.

What are some examples of conversations with a restorative lens?

Anyone can use restorative-based questions to help others process an incident of harm.

When speaking with someone whose behavior caused harm, you can ask:

  • What happened?
  • At the time, what were you thinking about?
  • What have you thought about since?
  • Who has been affected by this incident and in what way?
  • What can be done to address the situation?
  • What can be done to rebuild trust?

When offering support to those impacted by harm, you can ask:

  • What happened?
  • What impact has this incident had on you?
  • What has been the hardest thing about this?
  • Is there anything that could help meet your needs?
  • What could the other person do to help repair what has occurred?