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A Restorative Approach

Restorative justice is an approach — not simply a program. It can be applied in any context, in response to any kind of injustice.

What it looks like in your parish or organization will depend on many factors, including which justice concerns are a priority for your community and whether you most want to work for change at the individual level, the policy level, or the level of transforming structures. That is, you might want to foster restorative justice in more or less concretely visible ways.

This guide identifies and reflects on four key opportunities in ministry:

Opportunities in Ministry

  • Public Education and Community Resilience
    Learning, embracing, and raising awareness of restorative justice and its broad applications - helping to shift cultural assumptions and expectations.
  • Creating a Restorative Ministry
    Integrating restorative justice principles and practices within your existing ministry to meet needs, repair relationships, and create spaces for communal healing.
  • Becoming a Restorative Institution
    Developing restorative justice as your organization’s primary response to internal harms and injustices, thus creating a new default protocol that better aligns with your shared values.
  • Supporting a Restorative Initiative
    Partnering with external organization(s) dedicated to restorative justice, providing supports that might help it thrive and grow—thus committing to the larger development of restorative justice beyond your institution.

Restorative justice overlaps with other social justice movements but is also distinct. As you work through this material, pay attention to how the restorative justice lens might focus your work differently from other social justice priorities.

For example, the following table asks what your priority might be regarding several current social justice concerns:


Social Justice Approach

Restorative Approach

Ensure that policing practices are equitable? Eliminate structural biases?
Strengthen community–police relations?
Strengthen the community’s capacity to take the lead in repairing harm and rebuilding justice (thus freeing police to focus on emergency services)?
Ensure equitable treatment in criminal charging, access to representation, etc.?
Develop institutional responses to harm that share decision-making power with those most affected?
Work to ensure that sentencing is equitable, not disproportionately hurting some groups?
Work to ensure that people are held accountable through amends rather than punishment?
Death Penalty
Save the lives of people on death row?
Prevent state-sanctioned killing?
Encourage the recognition of human dignity and the capacity for change?
Heighten a focus on what victims need?
Encourage a priority on safety and healing over retribution?
To increase fair access to basic needs (housing, employment, transportation, etc.)?
Assist people with making amends to those they have harmed (including their own families or communities), or with seeking repair of injustices they have suffered?


Note that these purposes can overlap, and working for either set of purposes might make it easier to achieve the other. But note too that implementing restorative justice involves justice goals not necessarily met through other kinds of reform.

As you read this guide in light of your own context, consider what particular emphasis might be involved in implementing restorative justice.


Content contributors to this section included Susan Sharpe.