Restorative justice is a philosophy and theory rooted in Indigenous teachings that emphasizes community building, repairing harm and community reintegration as foundational principles of justice. Valuing connectedness, restorative justice emphasizes the importance of building and maintaining trusted and equitable relationships.
What are Restorative Practices?
Restorative practices are how we “do” restorative justice. Restorative practices is an umbrella term that covers many different forms of implementing restorative justice. This includes: community building circles, peace circles, healing circles, conferencing, and restorative conversations.
A Restorative Mindset
The restorative justice program seeks to support the entire campus community in developing a restorative mindset. A restorative mindset entails the willingness to think differently about relationships and situations in a way that recognizes our common humanity. Developing a restorative mindset often requires a paradigm-shift in our thinking about power, privilege, relationships and justice. Grounding ourselves in restorative values such as “openness, self‑determination, collaboration, flexibility, equality, non‑discrimination, non‑violence, fairness, respect, empowerment, trust, honesty, voluntarism, healing, personal accountability, inclusiveness, empathy and accountability”1 can lead to cultivating a restorative mindset.
A Restorative Framework
Restorative practices offer a unique opportunity to create a safe, inclusive and welcoming campus community. These practices are sometimes categorized into 3 separate “tiers” which can be a helpful tool for understanding the many ways a community can be restorative. The University of San Diego (USD) School of Leadership and Education Sciences calls this model the “Whole School Approach.” Visit the USD for helpful image representing the three tiers.
Tier 1: Community Building
The attention to relationship building improves established connections and provides safe spaces to develop new ones. Practices in this tier include community building circles, celebration circles, and appreciation circles.
Tier 2: Response to Harm
When harm occurs, accountability for the behaviors is determined by considering the impact on those directly harmed and the whole community. This empowers those who had been harmed to inform responses to wrongdoing and provides space for those committing harms to make amends, learn, grow and evolve. Practices in this tier include peace circles, restorative conversations, and conferencing.
Tier 3: Reintegration to Community
There are many reasons why individuals may be separated from their communities for a period of time. Sometimes these separations are voluntary, sometimes they are involuntary. In all cases, a community that seeks to be truly restorative will welcome the person who seeks to be reintegrated into community with the resources and support that person needs to succeed. Practices in this tier include re-entry circles, support circles and accountability circles.
The RJ @ NU Program
The RJ program at Northwestern is evolving. With the help of trained, dedicated volunteers, Northwestern has begun to implement restorative practices with Tier 1 community-building circles. In the future, the program will extend to other critical partners such as Student Affairs and the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion.
Community Building Circles invite reflection on shared values and goals, demonstrate empathetic and respectful communication, and promote authentic and trusted relationship development. When integrated into academic and professional environments, proactive circles strengthen interconnectedness, feelings of belonging and belief that one matters to and in the community, all of which are necessary for group cohesion and well-being.
- Aaron Golding, Multicultural Student Affairs
- Angelica Viramontes, Human Resources
- Anne Marie Adams, School of Communication
- Cassandra Salgado, School of Education and Social Policy
- Chelsea O'Neil Karcher, Social Justice Education
- Christine Munteanu, Multicultural Student Affairs
- Christopher Burpee, Norris University Center
- Ginger Jacobson, Kellogg School of Management
- Heather Cohen, Office of Equity
- Jasmine Gurneau, Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion
- Josephine Anderson, Northwestern Information Technology
- Keith Garcia, Fraternity & Sorority Life
- Leona Quist, Alumni Relations and Development
- Lucas Christain, Office of Community Standards
- Maureen Knight-Burrell, Northwestern Information Technology
- Puja Patel, Pritzker School of Law
- Qiu Fogarty, Social Justice Education
- Reba-Anna Lee, School of Professional Studies
- Rebekah Stathakis, Master of Science in Education Program
- Rhea Banks, Pritzker School of Law
- Rob Brown, Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications
- Saed Hill, Center for Awareness, Response and Education
- Sarah Brown, Women’s Center
- Sonia Maria Calles Mesa, Alumni Relations and Development
- Soo La Kim, School of Professional Studies
- Stephanie Knezz, Chemistry, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
- Steve Adams, Northwestern University Library
- Ted Quiballo, Northwestern University Library
- Tommy Rapley, Theatre, School of Communication
- Tracey Gibson-Jackson, Student Organizations & Activities
- Tracy Walker, Human Resources
- Una McGeough, Academic Support & Learning Advancement
Former University Colleagues and Members
D. Javier Thompson, Kellogg School of Management
As the RJ@NU program grows, the goal is to continue to expand restorative practices offerings by providing Tier 2 and Tier 3 options.
1 Hopkins, B. (2015). From Restorative Justice to Restorative Culture. Revista de Asistenta Sociala, 14, 19-34.