Restorative justice focuses on repairing harm and restoring relationships.
Restorative justice offers a different paradigm from conventional approaches. While the criminal legal system focuses on punishing the wrong-doer and relies on imprisonment to prevent further harm, restorative justice focuses meeting the needs of those who have been harmed while inviting those who have caused harm into a process of active accountability. Acknowledging our interconnectedness, restorative justice invites all those who have impacted by harm into a conversation. Collectively, these individuals discuss the underlying causes of harm and determine a path to move forward.
Beyond the individuals directly impacted by conflict or harm, restorative justice asks each of us to reflect on our collective responsibility for creating conditions that enable and foster harm, and tasks us with supporting accountability and safety. By widening who is responsible and who is capable, restorative justice harnesses the power and wisdom of community.
Restorative justice can take many forms and we use it in varied settings, whether as a referral from courts (handling criminal cases and interpersonal conflicts) or in schools (to build a positive culture and reduce incidents of harm), or in communities. When we work within institutions with histories of structural inequities and systemic oppression, we work to increase the agency of those most impacted by harm, and create empowerment and equity. Regardless of the setting, restorative justice seeks to secure safety through stronger, healthier relationships and communities.
Our practices at the Center are influenced and inspired by the Navajo tradition of Peacemaking. This is a healing practice.
Building on a traditional Native American approach to justice, the Center’s peacemaking programs focus on healing and community restoration rather than punishment.
Project Reset is a diversion program offering a new response to a low-level arrest that is proportionate, effective, and restorative.
Restorative Justice in Schools
We implemented restorative justice programs in five New York City high schools to strengthen relationships school-wide.
Restorative Justice and Intimate Partner Violence
We are reimagining the response to intimate partner violence through the lens of restorative justice.
Manhattan Justice Opportunities
Manhattan Justice Opportunities helps build a more effective and restorative justice system by providing comprehensive services as alternatives to traditional responses to crime.
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.
This fact sheet summarizes the mission and impact of Manhattan Justice Opportunities, a program of the Center for Court Innovation, that helps build safer communities and a fairer justice system by providing social services and supportive resources as effective alternatives to the traditional responses to crime, empowering people to make positive changes in their lives.
This guide provides lessons learned from the Center’s Restorative Justice in Schools Project. Over the course of three years, our team worked in five high schools implementing restorative practices. The theory of change was simple: strong relationships create safer and healthier school environments. The aim of the guide is to assist educators, students, and community members in shifting their schools away from punitive approaches and towards a more restorative environment, and to lay the foundation for the entire school community to build positive connections.
"We need a vision of a better society: a future grounded in love, justice, accountability, a future grounded in safety and good health," Ashish Prashar makes the argument against incarceration and includes our Red Hook Community Justice Center and Harlem Community Justice Center as examples of successful restorative justice programs.
High school student Rainier Harris, a second-year member of our Youth Justice Board, writes in The New York Times about experiencing racism at his school and the school's decision to respond with restorative justice. "Restorative justice," he writes, "inspires solutions that achieve value and respect for everyone. It’s the only way real change can be made."