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Katherine van Wormer

Restorative justice is an umbrella term for a victim-oriented method of righting a wrong, promoting healing following conflict, and providing a sense of safety in the aftermath of violence. Restorative justice refers not only to a number of strategies for resolving conflicts peacefully but also to a political campaign of sorts to advocate for the rights of victims and compassionate treatment of offenders. Instead of incarceration, for example, the option of community service coupled with substance abuse treatment might be favored. When the offender is an organization or governing body, reparations to affected individuals or populations might be in order. From the offender’s standpoint, accountability and truth-telling are stressed, as the offender typically offers to make amends for the harm that was done. From the victim/survivor’s standpoint, a key theme is empowerment, through receiving an apology from the wrongdoer and receiving the support of caring participants. Several models of restorative justice are relevant to social work, including victim–offender conferencing (sometimes incorrectly referred to as mediation), family group conferencing, healing circles, and community reparations. Social work involvement in the field of restorative justice occurs at all levels of practice. Its application in the context of macro social work involves communities, policy, and organizations.