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What is Restorative Justice?

Restorative Justice is a movement and set of practices that stands as an alternative to retributive justice.  Rather than emphasizing punishment and separation of the offender from society, Restorative Justice centers those who have been harmed by violence or other forms of crime.  Restorative Justice is not a panacea, nor is it always an appropriate choice for all acts that create harm.  However, a growing body of research is pointing to its usefulness in reducing recidivism and creating far more satisfaction with the justice process, both for those who have been harmed, and by those who have perpetrated harm. The burgeoning interest in restorative justice occurs at a time when U.S. practices of justice are under scrutiny.  We have extraordinarily high rates of incarceration, and a system that is demonstrably inequitable to people of color. This awareness of a broken system is galvanizing an interest in searching for a more equitable and effective approach to justice.  The dominant approach of retributive justice seems to create a system where those who are harmed by crime have little voice in shaping a just response.  We feel that punishments and sentences do little to promote accountability or the reclamation of identity, but assuredly contribute to the fracturing of communities. Restorative Justice practices offer a partial response to these dilemmas.

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