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Bibliography expanded and updated to reflect recent research such as youth work in Oakland, California and new texts on restorative justice edited and authored by social work educators.

Updated on 01 Aug 2013. The previous version of this content can be found here.
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date: 11 December 2017

Abstract and Keywords

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.

Keywords: counseling, criminal justice, family, group counseling, healing circles, restorative justice

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