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Defining Restorative Practice and Restorative Justice


Since 2000, our STARS staff have worked with a more restorative approach to the issue of conflict resolution and discipline by utilizing Restorative Practices.  Last year, the entire STARS staff was trained by the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) in Restorative Practices, with seven of our staff members now certified as trainers in Restorative Justice. Recently, Metro Nashville Public Schools, was awarded the Project Prevent Grant by the US Department of Education. Through Project Prevent, MNPS, in partnership with STARS (the only evidence-based Student Assistance Program as recognized by the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Association’s (SAMHSA) National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP) in the Southeast), it seeks to address the violence experienced and witnessed by our students as well as the identified gaps in current services within the district. The grant hopes to provide professional development opportunities for staff on how to screen and respond to violence-related trauma and implement appropriate school-based mitigation strategies, improve the availability, range, and quality of school-based mental health services, and address the needs of students by providing a process that will help identify students who are need of additional services as well as provide students the services they may need.

The hope is restorative practices will not only be seen as an important alternative to disciplinary practices for the criminal systems but will be seen as an appropriate alternative to disciplinary policies and practices in our school systems. To coincide with the implementation of the Project Prevent Grant, STARS will be doing a blog series about restorative practices: the need for restorative practices in our schools, STARS role in implementing restorative practices statewide and how restorative practices and bullying prevention can be successfully implemented in schools.

Defining Restorative Practice and Restorative Justice

At this point, you are probably wondering what Restorative Justice and Restorative Practice both means. Restorative Justice is a division of Restorative Practices. Restorative Practices emerged from Restorative Justice as a new field in the 1990s, developed with the hope it would have a positive influence on human behavior and strengthen civil society around the world. Both consist of formal or informal responses to wrongdoings. However, while Restorative Justice primary focus is crime; Restorative Practices works with all aspects of society.

Restorative practices is defined by the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) as, “a social science that studies how to build social capital and achieve social discipline through participatory learning and decision-making.” The practice helps reduce crime, violence, and bullying; improve human behavior; strengthen civil society; provide effective leadership; restore relationships; and repair harm.

How does it work?

Even though the scenarios and objectives might be different, the field provides the flexibility for individuals to develop the models and methodology to fit with the circumstances but still yield the same premise. Here are a few examples of restorative practices being utilized in different arenas found from the IIRP website:

Criminal Justice system example:

“Restorative circles and restorative conferences allow victims, offenders and their respective family members and friends to come together to explore how everyone has been affected by an offense, and, when possible, to decide how to repair the harm and meet their own needs.”

Social work example:

“Family group decision-making or family group conferencing processes empower extended families to meet privately, without a professional in the room, to make a plan to protect children in their own families from further violence and neglect or to avoid residential placement outside their own homes.”

Education example:

“Circles and groups provide opportunities for students to share their feelings, build relationships and solve problems, and when there is wrongdoing, to play an active role in addressing the wrong and making things right.”

The field believes it can help develop better relationships among society as a whole, resulting in significantly positive effects for everyone. For example, in schools, restorative practices have been shown to reduce misbehavior, bullying, violence, and crime among students, as well as improve the overall climate for learning (IIRP). The field is not just meant for schools, social workers, or the criminal justice system; IIRP wants to encourage anyone who is in a position of authority to learn about restorative practices because it can benefit everyone.

Join us next week to learn why it is important for schools to adapt restorative practices as a model in their school system’s disciplinary practices.

To learn more about restorative practices and restorative justice, we encourage you to check out the IIRP’s website or one of their courses for further education on the topic.


International Institute for Restorative Practices

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