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Restorative justice in higher education: A compilation of formats and best practices

Apr 30, 2012

from the guide by Justine Darling:

....There are many restorative tools and processes that can be used in the university setting. This guide is specific to Judicial and Residential Life processes within Institutions of Higher Education. Addressed below are the five most common methods of implementation that are used at the 9 colleges and universities in this study. The goal of all 5 Restorative Processes is for the respondent to acknowledge responsibility, identify harm and obligations, and develop a restorative plan agreed upon by the person responsible and impacted parties. Language used in Restorative Judicial Processes is different than the language used in Traditional Judicial Processes so that stigmatization is less likely to occur.

....Deciding which RJ tool to use at your University

Main Finding: Look at your current processes and procedures and see how a restorative lens can complement your work. Universities employing Restorative tools and techniques, namely conferencing, hearings, circles, dialogues, and boards, chose the type of RJ that most closely resembled their traditional conduct process. Models used were also based on the comfort level of administrators who would be implementing the program, research and resources available, and influence of other Restorative Processes in Higher Education. Rick Shafer, Associate Director of Student Life at Michigan State University said “Start small! Think simple! How can I infuse restorative principles into what is already happening? Every campus is unique so an expert in one situation may not work in others.”

....Relationship of RJ to the Traditional Conduct System

Main Finding: Restorative Justice is either a central process that all conduct cases go through or an optional process on a spectrum of options for students who have offended. When Restorative Processes are central, there is more consistency and is a sustainable model, but Restorative Justice is no longer voluntary and some students are not developmentally prepared to take responsibility. When Restorative Processes are an option for students, there are more quality cases because students are actively choosing Restorative Justice and are empowered to take responsibility, but Restorative Justice is operating in a silo and impacting less of the university community. Out of 9 universities, 7 use Restorative Justice as a central process and also have concentrated Restorative Justice Processes, such as Conferencing and Circles. 

....Policy and Code Changes

Main Finding: Writing restorative processes and language into policy and conduct codes is an important piece of making Restorative Justice a sustainable part of the university fabric. Because leadership shifts with time, if a Restorative Justice program begins with leadership that leaves the university, it is imperative to have Restorative Processes infused into structure. Language is important when implementing restorative justice in the university setting.

Read the whole guide.

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