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Restorative Justice

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What is Restorative Justice?

Participants put their hands in a circle as they bond over their shared experiences.


The Conflict Resolution Program has partnered with local organizations to bring restorative justice practices to Delawareans. Through these partnerships, we have been able to work directly with teens facing mental health, substance abuse, and disciplinary challenges.

Restorative justice is an approach to resolving conflict that is built on the values of respect, responsibility, and relationship. Restorative justice is different than traditional approaches to justice. Instead of ignoring victims and isolating offenders it focuses on the needs of the victim, promotes accountability from the offender, and empowers both to grow from the experience.

Restorative practices have deep roots in indigenous communities. Healing the harmed and rehabilitating the offender is the philosophy of indigenous peacemaking. These communities believed that they could right a wrong and restore harmony by talking to one another. Indigenous elders help their communities resolve disputes, repair relationships, and restore harmony by leading conversations that uncover:

  • Who has been hurt?
  • What are their needs?
  • Who is obligated to fulfill those needs or right this wrong?

There are a number of restorative practices that are being used in both criminal and community settings. While the methods are different, the key values of restorative justice remain. The three core restorative justice practices, according to Living Justice Press, are circle dialogue, victim-offender mediation/conferencing, and family group conferencing. Each of these practices has a specific structure and process and is delivered by a trained practitioner. At their core, these practices bring people together to:

  • Share their experiences,
  • Hear the experiences of others,
  • Repair any harm caused, and
  • Develop a deeper understanding and respect for one another.

These practices can be used to address conflicts in the criminal justice system, communities, families, education, and workplaces. In addition to resolving conflicts, these practices can help groups share information, create connections, build trust, and develop a sense of community.

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What kind of Restorative Justice work have we done?

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Recently, the Conflict Resolution Program (CRP) has partnered with local organizations to bring restorative justice practices to Delawareans. Through these partnerships, we have been able to work directly with teens facing mental health, substance abuse, and disciplinary challenges, and their families. CRP has also made presentations and conducted workshops for organizations and the public.

Circles of Understanding with Justice-Involved Youth

In collaboration with the Delaware Center for Justice (DCJ), CRP delivered a series of Circles of Understanding for students participating in the School Offense Diversion Program (SoDP) in the spring of 2019. SoDP is a diversion program for students arrested for an in-school incident that provides students with opportunities to grow and learn from the experience so their first interaction with the criminal justice system is also their last. Take a detailed look at our work with DCJ and SoDP.

Circle of Support with Aquila of Delaware Staff and Clients

Staff Circle

In January 2020, the Conflict Resolution Program (CRP) partnered with Aquila of Delaware, an organization that provides treatment services to adolescents and young adults suffering from psychiatric and substance abuse disorders, to provide a restorative justice experience. CRP was asked to facilitate a Dialogue Circle with Aquila's staff as both an introduction to the circle process and an opportunity to experience it before utilizing it with their youth clients. Read more about this partnership and its impact here.

Youth Circle

In partnership with Aquila of Delaware, CRP facilitated a Circle during the organization's weekly group therapy session for teen clients. Staff wanted to shake-up their usual session format and provide the teens with a new was to interact and share with each other. CRP designed a Circle that aligned with the group's monthly theme of family and history and brought the teens together to reflect and share their definition of and role in their families.

Circle Dialogue Training

CRP partnered with Jennifer Clement, a respected and experienced restorative justice practitioner and trainer, and Director of the Educere Institute at Children's Beach House, to deliver a one-day training on Circle Dialogue in June 2019. The training introduced the practice as a tool for conversation that increases group participation and collaboration, creates a space that welcomes diversity, builds community, and fosters understanding and respect. CRP trained 21 participants from variety of backgrounds and fields including education, justice, transportation, housing, and a variety of non-profit organizations.

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What can we do for you?

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As trained and experienced trainers, mediators and facilitators, we bring restorative justice principles into all of the work we do. We help groups identify their organizational needs and goals and work together to develop a plan for reaching those goals through research, training, and direct service. If you're interested in learning more about restorative justice practices and how we can help your group achieve its goals, email Jessica Velez

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Additional Resources

For more information about restorative justice principles, practices, and applications, check out these resources.

About Restorative Justice Practices

Restorative Justice Applications

Restorative Justice Organizations

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