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William R. Wood, Masahiro Suzuki, and Hennessey Hayes

Restorative justice is an innovative justice response to crime and offending that takes many forms such as victim-offender meetings, family group conferencing and youth justice conferencing, and sentencing or peacemaking circles. While restorative practices are used in a wide variety of contexts such as schools and workplaces to respond to and resolve conflict, restorative justice practices are predominantly used within criminal and youth justice. Key goals of restorative justice include (a) meeting victim needs of participation in justice processes and redress for harms caused to them, (b) asking wrongdoers to be accountable and actively responsible for making amends to victims and other they have harmed, and (c) involving primary and community stakeholders in restorative practices that repair harms to victims, promote offender reintegration, and enhance community safety and well-being. Existing research shows that restorative justice consistently meets most of these goals better than conventional court practices. However, restorative justice also appears to work better in some cases than in others, and also faces several limitations and challenges within its use in criminal justice systems. Limitations include dependence of restorative justice on state justice apparatuses for definitions of harm, and lack of fact-finding mechanisms that render most uses of restorative justice as diversionary or postadjudicative responses to offending. Challenges include lack of agreement on the aims and goals of restorative justice theoretically and in practice, administrative dilution and co-option of restorative aims and goals within increased institutionalization in criminal justice agencies, and uncertainty about the ability of restorative justice to redress harms situated within social-structural forms of violence and oppression such as gendered violence and systemic racism.