Restorative justice focuses on repairing harm and restoring relationships.
Restorative justice offers people a chance to respond to a conflict or wrongdoing in a way that is both meaningful and just. By emphasizing the needs of those who were hurt, encouraging accountability by those who caused the harm, and including the community, restorative justice promotes healing rather than punishment.
In 2013, the Center for Court Innovation worked with mentors from tribal communities to launch its first peacemaking initiative in Red Hook, Brooklyn. This diversion program replaced jail and other court-imposed punishments with a community-based peacemaking process. Its success prompted two similar community-based programs in Syracuse and the Bronx.
Committed to continuing to test our ideas, we embarked on a federally-funded randomized controlled trial, implementing and measuring the impact of restorative practices in five high schools in Brooklyn, N.Y. The study, to be completed in 2020, will examine how to shift school culture and reduce the use of suspensions and expulsions, with a focus on key disparities related to race and disability. In a separate initiative, we are investigating how restorative justice can be integrated into the movement to end gender-based violence.
The Center is committed to sharing its lessons learned about restorative justice with communities around the world.
Building on a traditional Native American approach to justice, the Center’s peacemaking programs focus on healing and community restoration rather than punishment.
Restorative Justice in Schools
We've implemented restorative justice programs in five New York City high schools aimed at strengthening relationships school-wide.
Restorative justice is about repairing harm. But for Black Americans, what is there to be restored to? This special episode of New Thinking features a roundtable with eight members of our Restorative Justice in Schools team. They spent three years embedded in five Brooklyn high schools—all five schools are overwhelmingly Black, and all five had some of the highest suspension rates in New York City.
Spurred by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black Americans at the hands of police, demands are increasing for money to be redirected from police budgets. No single strategy can achieve meaningful change; through experience and research, we have identified a number of sustainable community-driven solutions that can limit the role of police, while building safe and strong neighborhoods.
Seven students in our Restorative Justice in Schools Program won NPR's 2020 student podcast competition, out of thousands of entries from across the country. On the winning episode, the students—part of the Men in Color after-school program at their Brooklyn high school—discuss climate change and environmental racism. They created the episode after participating in the New York City youth climate march, where they interviewed people about how black communities intersect with climate justice.
“Climate change is racial injustice,” the students conclude.
Two restorative justice community courts are set to open in September in the Chicago area. The courts are based off the model of our Red Hook Community Justice Center and aim to settle nonviolent felony and misdemeanor cases involving young people using restorative practices.
"Climate change is racial injustice." Taking that as their topic, students in our Brooklyn-based Restorative Justice in Schools program placed first out of 2,200 submissions in NPR's Student Podcast Challenge. Read more about the students, and hear their award-winning episode, in this NPR profile. "Racism is like a tree," explains one of the students, "and police brutality and environmental racism are just a couple of branches off that giant tree."
Out of 2,200 submissions across the United States, "The Flossy Podcast," created by the Men in Color group, a project of our Restorative Justice in Schools program, won NPR's Student Podcast Challenge. Students Jaheim and Joshua and teacher Mischael joined WNYC's Brian Lehrer to discuss their winning episode on climate change and environmental racism.