Restorative justice programs

Program basics

  • Restorative justice is an approach to criminal justice in which the emphasis is placed on healing the damage inflicted on victims and the community rather than on punishing the offender
  • Offender acknowledges responsibility and attempts to repair damage through practices such as such as victim-offender mediation, peacemaking circles, and family group conferences
  • Attempts to address some violent crimes (e.g., minor assault),“victimless” crimes (e.g., traffic violations or status offenses), and property-related offenses (e.g., personal theft, shoplifting, and vandalism)

Strength of evidence

Evidence level: Strong (second-highest tier)


Strong (second-highest tier)

Ranked as having the second-highest level of evidence by the National Institute of Justice

Target population

Opportunity Youth

Program cost

Not available

Implementation locations

  • Nationwide

Dates active


Outcomes and impact

  • Reduced recidivism rates
  • Increased offender and victim perception of fairness and satisfaction with the judicial process
  • Increased rates of completion of restitution and reparations

Keys to successful implementation

  • Develop a dynamic program that allows for a range of proven approaches, including victim-offender mediation, family group conferences, and peacemaking circles; in each case, the offender focuses on taking responsibility and repairing damage, but staff members can leverage that flexibility to maximize program effectiveness.
  • In all program communications, emphasize the importance of restoration and repairing damage and harm, rather than on punishment or retribution; actively work against the notion of “an eye-for-an-eye” justice.
  • Identify and evaluate a range of potential partners, including third-party program administrators, community groups, schools, and more.
  • To recruit offenders and victims who may benefit from alternatives to traditional criminal justice methods, engage with community agencies, victim advocacy groups, schools, law enforcement, and local courts.
  • Prioritize creation of a rigorous, in-person screening process to ensure participants are appropriate for the program, especially the offender’s willingness to engage in repairing harm and participating in face-to-face dialogue with a victim.
  • Provide significant flexibility in terms of victim participation, including direct and indirect contact with the offender and changing course as needed.

Similar programs