Restorative Justice Program
What is restorative justice?
Restorative justice is a theory or set of beliefs that informs how communities can resolve problems that have caused harm or damaged relationships. Restorative justice prioritizes accountability and community healing over punishment, shifting the focus from what rules were broken and what punishment is deserved to what harm was done and what needs to be done to repair the harm.
Why does the YWCA Madison use restorative justice?
The YWCA Madison uses restorative justice as a strategy to address the School-to-Prison Pipeline. The School-to-Prison Pipeline is a process by which students are removed from the school for disciplinary infractions. These students are often put on a path to the criminal justice system. The racial disparities in school discipline directly correlate with the racial disparities in the criminal justice system. We use restorative justice to provide alternative discipline models in schools to keep students in school and out of the justice system.
This is a proactive approach to whole-school climate change based on improved communication and responsibility. It provides a cost-effective strategy for long-term change that enhances and builds relationships, improves behavior, reduces violence, and builds community.
Additionally, the YWCA Restorative Justice Program can be used as a preventative tool to develop and enhance leadership skills of those who participate in the training. Our program is being implemented in the following schools in and around Madison:
How does the program work?
There are many ways to practice restorative justice. The YWCA Madison uses the Circle process. A Restorative Justice Circle gives participants an equal voice and uses a talking piece that allows one person to talk at a time. We use the Circle Process to teach our restorative justice curriculum to middle and high school students. After completing our curriculum, these students become Circle Keepers in their schools. They then facilitate discipline Circles for their peers who were referred for a disciplinary infraction such as truancy, insubordination, peer conflict or others. Discipline Circles also include school staff, YWCA representation, a support person for the referred student, and any other appropriate people who may have been impacted.
Access restorative justice resources here.
Read more about the school-to-prison pipeline here.
Videos about Restorative Justice
2013 Restorative Justice Outcomes
81% (110 out of 136) students who participate in a 2013 Restorative Justice referral circles showed attitude and behavioral improvements. Students who participate in referral circles are more likely to become connected to the school community and stay in school until graduation.
Since implementing the Restorative Justice program, participating schools had a 15% decrease in the total number of out of school suspensions during the 2011-12 school year.