A “Big Tent” definition of Restorative Practice

We’re preparing for a community forum on restorative practices. I think it’s useful to have a “Big Tent” definition of what these practices are, so I drafted this one on Friday. I’d be very interested in comments from other RJ/RP workers.


Restorative Practices are efforts that build, maintain, and restore communities around inclusive networks of right relationships.

Restorative Processes bring together people when relationships are damaged by the specific actions of one or more people. An effective restorative intervention is one that leads to mutual understanding and an agreed-upon, feasible plan to make things right. A successful restorative process is one in which agreements are kept and relationships are restored—things are “made right.”

Restorative Justice occurs as a result of successful restorative processes in response to a crime.

There are many types of restorative practices. The great majority work by bringing people together in circles. These circles include a set of elements that are the source of their success:

Four Intentions (plus optional agreements as decided by the group):
Speak from the heart
Listen from the heart
Be of lean expression
Speak in the moment (spontaneity/not rehearsing)

Use of a Talking Piece
Opening and Closing Rituals
Circle keeper (facilitator) is member of circle, minimal intervention
Shared responsibility of all members for process and outcome
Specific questions (for restorative processes)

What are your thoughts about the incident?
What are you feelings about the incident?
What are the impacts of the incident on you and others?
What needs to be done (or do you need to do) to make things right?

Opportunity to come to an agreement
Reparations and Restitution
Restorative Actions (symbolic actions for restoring relationships)
Accountability for Completing Plans
Support for overcoming obstacles to completing plans


2 Responses

  1. I read your comments as a big tent list of restorative practices. I am not sure this is possible because there is such diversity in restorative practice. As an alternative I would propose a list of universal restorative principles which would fit the format;

    “Results are more restorative when the process has more ____________.”

    Community involvement, voluntary choice, shared responsibility ect. could complete the statement. This is how Dominic Barter describes the possibilities for Restorative Justice Circles.

    I like this because it can include small restorative acts with in a punitive justice system and independent restorative systems.


  2. Hi Ross,

    I like the fill-in-the-blank approach. It would be interesting to do this in a workshop with a bunch of restorative practices professionals and see what comes up. My sense is that I would not want to say, “here is the answer”, but just to enjoy the exchange of ideas.


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