Katherine van Wormer
This entry defines restorative justice and describes the models most relevant to social work. These are victim–offender conferencing (sometimes incorrectly referred to as mediation); family group conferencing; healing circles; and community reparations.
Restorative justice is an umbrella term for a method of handling disputes with its roots in the rituals of indigenous populations and traditional religious practices (Zehr, 2002). A three-pronged system of justice, restorative justice is a nonadversarial approach usually monitored by a trained professional who seeks to offer justice to the individual victim, the offender, and the community, all of whom have been harmed by a crime or other form of wrongdoing. Accountability is stressed as the offender typically offers to make amends for the harm that was done.
Restorative justice not only refers to a number of strategies for resolving conflicts peacefully but also to a political campaign of sorts to advocate for the rights of victims and for compassionate treatment of offenders (see Bazemore & Schiff, 2001; Umbreit & Armour, 2010). Instead of incarceration, for example, the option of community service coupled with substance abuse treatment might be favored.