Restorative practices focus on repairing the harm caused by offending behavior, restoring damaged relationships in the community, and building positive school climates. It is generally accomplished through cooperative dialogue that brings offenders together with harmed parties, peers and adults to devise a plan for accountability and reparation. The goal is to restore damaged relationships while holding young people and adults accountable through open and honest communication.
Emerging research suggests that restorative approaches are an effective response to reducing crime, violence and school infractions than reliance on purely punitive or exclusionary approaches, such as suspension or criminal prosecution. New studies also indicate that restorative practices reduce racial disproportionality in suspension and detention, by fostering relationships of understanding and trust between authority figures and youth of color. The practice helps achieve stronger school climate and social discipline through learning and cooperative decision-making.
Methods of restorative practices are generally carried out in circle discussions of affected youth, adults and their supporters that provide an opportunity for all voices to be heard. Through the use of circles and peer mediation in schools, students and teachers learn to solve problems through the development of trust in a safe environment. In court settings, restorative justice practices provide an opportunity to devise an enforceable agreement as to actions a young person will follow to repair the harm he or she has caused, and to avoid further contact with justice system.