Restorative practices for dispute resolution are modeled after restorative justice, which is an alternative dispute resolution model that focuses on the needs of the individuals who have been harmed by someone else’s actions, as well as the needs of the community of people who were directly or indirectly harmed. Restorative justice differs from more punitive approaches to dispute resolution where the main objective is to punish the offending party, seeking instead to involve the offending party in repairing the harm his or her actions caused and restoring as much normalcy as possible to the harmed party. To accomplish this, the harmed party takes an active role in the process, while the person who caused the harm is encouraged to take responsibility for his or her actions — to repair the harm. Restorative practices can be implemented in a variety of setting including criminal justice, corporations, communities, religions organizations and nonprofits, and in families experiencing conflict. The following are two conflict interventions frequently implemented in a restorative process.
Peacemaking Circles: Peacemaking circles, or dialogue circles, provide an opportunity for groups to exchange stories and build common ground. These shared explorations often enable groups to identify and explore creative solutions to their conflicts as well as develop and nurture strong bonds in both personal and professional relationships. Peacemaking circles are ideal for creating a space that fosters collaboration in healing and/or decision-making. There are several types of peacemaking circles, each designed to meet a specific need.
- Talking circles bring people together to dialogue about a particular issue in which they all have a shared stake. Some examples include responses to a new policy (in a community or organization), responses to changes in a family, community, or organization, racism in the community, etc.
- Conflict circles are designed to address difficulties in a relationship and include the parties who are affected by the relationship as well as the conflict. The goal is to deal with the underlying conflict. Conflict circles can take place in organizations, communities, families, etc.
- Support circles offer encouragement to an individual who is experiencing a transition. Examples of transitions might include losing a job, losing a loved one, learning to transition to life with an illness, re-entrying society after a period of incarceration, etc.
- Healing circles provides opportunities for those who have been harmed to tell their stories of trauma or loss and for others to offer empathy and emotional support.
- Organizational circles are opportunities for organizations to organize brain-storming sessions, strategic planning, as well as management supervision.
Victim Offender Mediation: Victim offender mediation (VOM) is one of the oldest and most utilized tools of restorative justice practices. VOM deals with violations of criminal laws by addressing the underlying conflict of and resulting injuries to the victim and offender. VOM emphasizes the right of both the victim and offender to participate in attempting to achieve justice rather than deferring the matter entirely to the criminal justice system. VOM involves a meeting between the person who has been a victim of a crime and the person who is the criminal offender. This meeting is facilitated by a trained victim offender mediator who assists the parties in a dialogue designed to help the victim construct his or her own approach to achieving justice. Both parties are provided the opportunity to express their feelings and perceptions of the offense, and the meeting concludes with an attempt to reach agreement on the steps the offender will take to repair the harm suffered by the victim. Participation by both parties is voluntary. VOM can be adapted to a corporate environment in which a person has caused harm to another individual, acknowledges the harm and has agreed to a mediated dialogue with the desire to repair the harm.