What is Restorative Justice?
Restorative justice is a philosophy and approach to justice that seeks to repair harm caused by some form of wrongdoing. Rather than focusing on punishment or retribution, restorative justice seeks to address the root causes of the harm, promote healing, and repair relationships between those who have been harmed, those who have caused harm, and the wider community they are involved with.
In the creation and enforcement of safety policies at conventions, restorative justice can be used as a tool to address instances of harm or wrongdoing that may occur. Rather than simply punishing or excluding individuals who engage in harmful behavior, restorative justice processes can be used to hold those who cause harm accountable for their actions, while also promoting healing and reconciliation for all parties involved.
In fact, punitive measures may have limited effectiveness in preventing safety incidents from occurring. They do not address the root causes of the behavior that led to the incident, nor do they provide an opportunity for individuals to learn from their mistakes and make amends.
Restorative justice processes may involve a facilitated dialogue or mediation between the parties involved, allowing them to express their feelings, concerns, and perspectives in a safe and supportive environment. The process may also involve the creation of a plan for repairing the harm caused, which may include actions such as apologies, restitution, or community service.
Implementing restorative justice policies and practices at conventions can help to create a safer and more inclusive environment for all attendees. By prioritizing healing and relationship-buillding over punishment and exclusion, restorative justice can help to build a culture of accountability, compassion, and mutual respect, and reduce the likelihood of harm happening in the first place.
How can we transition?
Introducing restorative justice to a convention safety team that currently employs purely punitive measures can be a challenging task, but there are some strategies you might try, if you wish to encourage them to make the move towards more restorative methods:
The first step is to educate the convention safety team on what restorative justice is and how it works. Provide them with resources and information that explain the philosophy and principles of restorative justice, and how it can be used in the context of convention safety policies.
Emphasize the benefits of restorative justice over a purely punitive approach. Explain how it can promote accountability, foster healing, and build stronger relationships between attendees and the convention community as a whole.
Rather than overhauling the entire convention safety policy at once, suggest starting with a pilot program or a small-scale trial of restorative justice practices. This can help to build buy-in and trust from the team and provide an opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of restorative justice in action.
Use examples from other conventions or events where restorative justice has been successfully implemented to show the team how it can work in practice. This can help to illustrate the potential benefits of restorative justice and overcome any skepticism or resistance.
Encourage open and honest dialogue with the convention safety team, including those who may have reservations or concerns about restorative justice. Listen to their perspectives and address any concerns they may have, while also being clear about the goals and benefits of restorative justice.
Seek support from other stakeholders and partners within the convention community, such as attendees, organizers, and vendors. Building a coalition of support can help to create momentum and push for the adoption of restorative justice practices.
What if that doesn’t work?
If the convention has a negative or hostile response to attempts to introduce restorative justice practices, it is important to respond in a way that is respectful, professional, and focused on the goals of creating a safe and inclusive environment for all attendees. Here are some strategies that might be effective:
Listen and Validate
Listen to the concerns and objections of the convention community and validate their perspectives. Acknowledge that change can be difficult and that there may be concerns or fears about the impact of restorative justice on the convention community.
Clarify the goals of restorative justice practices and emphasize how they align with the broader goals of creating a safe and welcoming environment for all attendees. Emphasize that restorative justice is not about letting people off the hook, but about promoting accountability, healing, and repair.
Address any misconceptions or misunderstandings about restorative justice and provide clear and accurate information about how it works and what its benefits are.
Build coalitions of support within the convention community, including attendees, organizers, vendors, and other stakeholders. Use this support to create momentum and push for the adoption of restorative justice practices.
Be Patient and Persistent
Change can take time, and it is important to be patient and persistent in advocating for restorative justice practices. Keep the conversation going and continue to engage with the convention community about the benefits of restorative justice and how it can contribute to a safer and more inclusive convention environment.
Seek Outside Support
If necessary, seek support from outside organizations or experts who can provide additional information, resources, and perspectives on restorative justice practices. This can help to build credibility and overcome resistance to change within the convention community.
Further Reading and Resources
If you’re looking to learn more about restorative justice, here are some resources to check out:
- Restorative Justice International: This organization provides information and resources on restorative justice, as well as training and networking opportunities for those interested in implementing restorative justice practices.
- Restorative Justice Educators Toolkit: This website provides resources for helping to implement a program of compassionate, creative and inclusive alternatives for responding to discipline issues.
- Restorative Justice Exchange: This network is a community of practitioners, scholars, and advocates who are interested in restorative justice. (Especially useful are the Three Core Elements of Restorative Justice.)
- International Institute for Restorative Practices: Resources oriented towards strengthening restorative practices in programs for prisoners, victims and families of prisoners.
- Books: There are also many books on restorative justice, including “The Little Book of Restorative Justice” by Howard Zehr, “Restorative Justice Today: Practical Applications” by Katherine S. van Wormer and Lorenn Walker, and “Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime and Justice” by Howard Zehr.