Historical background of restorative practices 

A Historical Background of Restorative Practices

The core of restorative practices is rooted in ancient indigenous culture. The idea that a thriving community is inherently interconnected. When harm occurs, it does not simply affect those involved, but the entire community. If that harm is not confronted and addressed through intentional conversation, then community bonds will weaken. Greater harm will occur and more frequently unless the original harm is repaired first. The gatherings would be held in a circle to discuss what happened, who was affected, what can be done to make it right and not happen again. The circle itself is sacred. It is not just a place for conflicts to be resolved, but an opportunity to share triumphs and joys. 

As time moved on, restorative practices were slowly integrated into American criminal justice policy. The thought was to get the victim and offender in front of each other to have them speak from their heart about what happened and how it affected them. More importantly, so that they could listen to what the other person had to say. Hopefully, through that discussion, the two parties will be able to find understanding of each other’s circumstances. The victim may gain a feeling of closure once the circle is completed, and the offender can make the effort to repair the harm based on the needs of the victim. Restorative practices are currently used throughout the United States in schools, prisons, and therapy groups, among others.

Restorative practices are used in the Clay County Attorney’s Office through the Juvenile Diversion Program. This program has been serving our community for 20+ years offering juvenile diversions as an alternative to court. The idea is that when a first-time juvenile offender receives a citation, they can participate in a circle or other restorative process to better understand the harm they caused. An effort is made to appropriately repair the harm through various means. Once that is done the matter is considered closed without the need for a court trial. Restorative practices offers a wonderful alternative to court to the benefit of all involved.

The Origins of Circles - Living Justice Press (livingjusticepress, 2023)

The Origins of Restorative Justice (cfcj-fcjc.org) (Leung, 1999)

H. Zehr, Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime and Justice (Waterloo, ON: Herald Press, 1990) at 181.