Restorative Justice

What is RJ?


Harvard Initiatives


Harm to Harmony: Community-based Harm Prevention, Intervention, & Response CLIF Grant

This pilot, Harm to Harmony (H2H), uses a scaffolded approach to prime Harvard communities for RJ practices: provide information sessions, mobilize a RJ collaborative, coordinate training, and support the creation of community-based norms and practices of accountability to prevent, intervene, and respond to harm.

RJ Collaborative

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RJ at Harvard Survey

Harvard RJ Related Coursework

FRSEMR 63L Memory Wars: Cultural Trauma and the Power of Lit

Course description (Full Term- 4hrs): How do we respond to a traumatic event? Denial, acceptance, blame, reconciliation… there are many stances we can take toward a harmful act we have experienced or committed in the past. When entire populations have suffered or perpetrated crimes against humanity, the question of how to deal with this traumatic past can spark a full-blown memory war – such as the one currently raging in the U.S. over Confederate monuments. In this seminar, we explore how the catastrophic events of the Holocaust, slavery, and apartheid affect the way we think and act as individuals, groups and citizens today. What power do literature and the arts have in bringing peace to a society at war with its past? Materials include acclaimed American, German, and South African writers such as Toni Morrison, Paul Celan, and Sindiwe Magona; human rights philosopher Hannah Arendt; comedian Trevor Noah; and civil rights lawyer and Harvard Law School graduate Bryan Stevenson, who has been fighting racial bias in the U.S. criminal justice system for the past three decades. Topics include literature about the Holocaust, slavery, and apartheid; Germany’s and South Africa’s recent “ethical turn” in memory culture; reconciliation and reparation; mass incarceration; punitive vs. restorative justice; social justice.

SOC-STD 68RJ Restorative and Transformative Justice

Course Description (Fall Semester- 4hrs): Restorative justice (RJ) is a quickly growing field, and has become central to discussions of harm, crime, punishment, and power. Yet it is not obvious what the core ideas and practices of RJ are. This class will center on an examination of the rich diversity of understandings, practices, histories, and activist causes that are part of the multiplicity of RJ movements. Are there foundational ideas and practices that unite RJ programs? What inspires people to turn to RJ? What is the nature of the disagreements and conflicts that have emerged within the movement? How are we to understand the overlap and tensions between the agendas of restorative and transformative justice (TJ)?One thing that has become clear is that RJ is not merely about a set of circle or conference practices. It is also a set of beliefs and teachings concerning how we relate to ourselves and our communities. These teachings do not merely lie behind the practices of RJ and TJ, they are an integral part of those practices. In trying to transform our patterns of responding to harm, these movements also seek to transform our ideas about how to conduct our daily lives. Just as we will critically assess the conferencing and circle practices of RJ and TJ we will likewise examine the everyday teachings of restorative living that are central to these movements.This is an engaged scholarship course, and a guiding assumption is that students will be interested in applying RJ practices in a particular setting, organization, or group they are involved in. Resources and opportunities to practice RJ skills will be provided for students who want assistance in finding a context to practice RJ outside of class. In addition to discussing academic literature, case studies, interviews, etc., each class meeting will devote time to RJ practice. The first half of the course will focus our practice time on building circle fluency, while the later weeks will be focused on providing support as students take their practices to their communities.

SOCIOL 1152 Conflict, Justice, and Healing

Course Description (Fall- 4hrs): Serious crime and other forms of conflict are experienced as a traumatic violation.  This is to be avoided at all costs.  And yet… some survivors experience surprising levels of resilience, a renewed sense of meaning and purpose, empowerment, and post-traumatic growth.  Some offenders turn towards a deeper sense of truth and existential responsibility.  Some communities transcend institutionalized patterns of dehumanization and violence to embrace the challenging path of forgiveness, reconciliation, healing, and inclusive flourishing. When and how do individuals and communities heal after conflict?  We engage with these issues through a series of diverse case studies, including contemporary examples drawn from the international Black Lives Matter movement, prisoner reintegration efforts in the U.S., victim/offender dialog in the Middle East, and embodied emancipation in post-apartheid South Africa, as well as classic cases such as the Cuban Missile Crisis.  A critical  engagement with the emerging fields of conflict transformation and  positive criminology reveals potential restorative pathways to  individual and communal well-being, and ultimately harm prevention.  A  growing body of empirical research on the social conditions and  processes that give rise to these outcomes will also help us explore  such timeless questions as: What is justice?  How can “enemies”  reconcile?   What is the good life?

EDU T416 Transformative Justice: From Classroom to Cellblock to

Course Description (Spring Semester- 4hrs): How do we understand justice? What are the connections between trauma, education and mass incarceration? From cradle to prison cell, what is our praxis—that is, how do we do education, and what are its fruits? This course explores the systems of racialized punishment that have created the current conditions around school suspensions, arrests, and incarceration. It focuses on the growing movement for restorative/transformative justice, paying particular attention to factors associated with delinquency and crime; such as citizenship, poverty, race, and gender. The course uses readings, discussion, workshops, and meetings with expert practitioners in diverse settings (schools, prisons, and neighborhoods) to provide the tools educators need to nurture learning communities that affirm human dignity. Visiting practitioners will include indigenous leaders, prison educators, and teachers from the Boston Public Schools. Our work will engage a range of disciplines including applied ethics, transformative pedagogy, neuroscience, and public policy to ask fundamental questions about what it means to keep humanity at the center of conflict resolution. Please note that this course includes a practicum—students will support transformative justice in diverse environments.

HLS 2139 Judicial Process in Trial Courts Clinical Seminar

Course Description (Spring Semester- 4hrs): This weekly seminar examines through participant observation the functioning of the judicial process in our trial courts with special attention to different judicial roles in different trial courts. The focus of the class in on the various roles (adjudicatory, administrative, sentencing, educational and symbolic) that judges play in these courts. Students have the unique opportunity to observe and discuss the work of their assigned judges in a clerkship-type setting. Students are also expected to assist their judges with legal research and writing. The contributions of various scholars to understanding the work of judges in these courts is reviewed as well as distinct proposals for reform. Because of the variety of judicial placements, attention is also paid to common issues such as judicial accountability, judicial ethics, ADR, juries, access to justice, and sentencing innovations like treatment courts and restorative justice.

HLS 2242 Title IX: Sports, Sex and Equality on Campus

Course Description (Fall- 4hrs): Title IX guarantees students the right to equal access to educational opportunities. In this seminar, we consider Title IX from legal policy, jurisprudential and social justice perspectives. We consider the role of various social and political forces on Title IX's interpretation and enforcement, and how it has become the site of contested notions of students' rights regarding sexual assault on campus. Students can expect to learn about litigation strategies, effective advocacy campaigns and the art of law in action. The course analyzes schools' obligation to prevent, respond to, and resolve cases of sexual misconduct. We consider questions including: how do we create cultures of sexual respect on campus? What role can schools play to address most effectively the persistent problem of underreporting? How should schools design their resolution systems to provide justice and fair process for all parties? These questions will be considered in the current context of the Biden Administration's efforts to restore protections for victims and survivors after the previous administration's passing of a Final Rule on Title IX that narrowed the protections afforded by the Title IX civil rights regime.

HLS 2654 Restorative and Transformative Justice

Course Description (Fall Semester- 2hrs): This seminar will discuss the theory behind restorative justice and examine current experiments in the practice of restorative justice, with a visit or two from restorative justice practitioners.


Community Resources

Communities for Restorative Justice Concord, MA

A growing nonprofit that partners with 31 cities and towns, their police departments, the Northwestern District Attorney, and the District Attorneys of Middlesex and Suffolk counties to rebuild trust and offer a path forward in the wake of crime. We listen to victims, hold responsible parties accountable, and restore trust in communities. Our volunteer-led "circle" dialogue is called restorative justice. It's personal. It's powerful. And it's why C4RJ is a proven, effective option within the justice system.

Institute for Restorative Initiatives Boston, MA

The Institute for Restorative Initiatives (IRIS) was founded in 2013, in collaboration with the Center for Restorative Justice, to promote collaborative partnerships with schools, juvenile justice agencies and youth-serving organizations.  IRIS assists schools and agencies to implement restorative approaches to discipline, classroom management and school climate.

The Criminal Justice Policy Coalition Boston, MA

Our criminal justice system is informed by the principle of rehabilitation through alternatives to incarceration, addressing the root causes of offending, and providing a pathway to reintegration into society. It would treat everyone fairly and humanely through the use of evidence-based practices and would focus on restorative justice to heal all parties harmed.

Trinity Boston Foundation Boston, MA

The mission of Trinity Boston Connects is to heal the traumatic impact of systemic racism in Boston, and to create a more  equitable Boston in which youth of color can thrive. We work through the integration of racial equity, trauma-inclusion, and restorative justice practices (our 3 Essential Community Practices) in service of youth, youth workers, and youth-serving organizational leaders and staff.

Restorative Justice Resources & References


Transformative Justice Resources

List originally compiled by Our Harvard 


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