The Institute for Restorative Justice and Practices provides resources and training to guide primary and secondary schools and community-based correction agencies to develop a holistic community-oriented approach to resolve conflict and address harm caused by trauma. The Institute works to move beyond traditional approaches to crime and punishment and school-based discipline to promote communal healing and social transformation through interdisciplinary and holistic engagement. The Institute empowers communities to address structural inequalities, equips individuals with community-building skills, and advances scholarship in restorative practices.
What is Restorative Justice?
Restorative Justice is an emerging social science that studies how to build, strengthen, and repair relationships between individuals and establish supportive social connections within communities. It represents a complete paradigm shift from viewing harm as a violation of the law to understanding it as a violation of people and relationships that requires accountability and healing. Restorative justice practices include:
- Victim-Offender Conferencing, a process that provides interested victims of crime the opportunity to meet the offender in a safe and structured setting to hold the offender directly accountable for their behavior while providing critical assistance and compensation to the victim.
- Restorative circle, a technique that builds and restores relationships through equal opportunity sharing and listening. These talking circles proactively build the skills individuals need when conflicts arise because they allow them to speak and be heard. Restorative circles are especially beneficial for youth learning how to negotiate conflict, helping them to practice respectful listening and healthy self-expression.
- Family group conferencing involves the community of people most affected by the crime -- the victim and the offender; and the family, friends, and key supporters of both -- deciding to resolve a criminal incident. A trained facilitator brings together these affected parties to discuss how the offense has harmed them and others and how that harm might be repaired. To participate, the offender must admit to the offense. Participation by all involved is voluntary.
The Institute provides the following service to primary and secondary educators, criminal justice personnel, community organizers and justice-involved individuals:
- Training – workshops to educate the community on the benefits of restorative justice practices and training sessions on restorative practices
- Evaluation – research and evaluation of existing school or community-based restorative justice programs to assess quality and effectiveness
- Implementation – step-by-step guides to implement restorative practices in schools and community-based correction, including an overview of restorative practices and strategies and tools to prevent conflict and rebuild relationships.
Prison Education Program
Bowie State University offers educational opportunities to inmates incarcerated at the Jessup Correctional Institution. Students pursuing the Bachelor of Science in sociology can select from several restorative justice courses as part of a curriculum that seeks to address the whole student with a focus on restorative practices. This holistic approach provides incarcerated students the path to address the harm they inflicted upon society as well as the harm that was inflicted upon them by society.
Dr. Charles B. Adams
Dr. Matasha Harris