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date: 02 December 2021

Restorative Justicelocked

Restorative Justicelocked

  • Katherine van WormerKatherine van WormerKatherine Stuart van Wormer, MSSW, Ph.D., is Professor of Social Work at the University of Northern Iowa. Her Ph.D. is in sociology from the University of Georgia. Uniquely van Wormer participated in two civil rights movements—one in North Carolina and one in Northern Ireland, where she taught English for several years. In the late 1980s, she moved to Norway for two years to practice alcoholism counseling. Dr. van Wormer has authored or co-authored 21 books and over 60 articles. She has authored or co-authored two volumes of Human Behavior and the Social Environment, Micro and Macro Levels (2nd ed.) (Oxford University Press), Death by Domestic Violence: Preventing the Murders and the Murder-Suicides 2009 (Praeger), Women and the Criminal Justice System (3rd ed.), 2010 (Prentice Hall), and Working with Female Offenders: A Gender-Sensitive Approach, 2010 (Wiley & Sons), Addiction Treatment: A Strengths Perspective (3rd ed.), 2012, (Cengage). Her most recent and personally meaningful book published in 2012 through LSU Press is The Maid Narratives: African American Domestic Workers and their Employers in the Jim Crow South. Van Wormer infuses content on restorative justice in all her textbooks one way or another.


This entry defines restorative justice and describes the models most relevant to social work. These are victim–offender conferencing (sometimes incorrectly referred to as mediation); family group conferencing; healing circles; and community reparations.

Restorative justice is an umbrella term for a method of handling disputes with its roots in the rituals of indigenous populations and traditional religious practices (Zehr, 2002). A three-pronged system of justice, restorative justice is a nonadversarial approach usually monitored by a trained professional who seeks to offer justice to the individual victim, the offender, and the community, all of whom have been harmed by a crime or other form of wrongdoing. Accountability is stressed as the offender typically offers to make amends for the harm that was done.

Restorative justice not only refers 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 for compassionate treatment of offenders (see Bazemore & Schiff, 2001; Umbreit & Armour, 2010). Instead of incarceration, for example, the option of community service coupled with substance abuse treatment might be favored.


  • Criminal Justice
  • Clinical and Direct Practice
  • Ethics and Values
  • Social Justice and Human Rights

Updated in this version

Bibliography expanded and updated to reflect recent research such as youth work in Oakland, California and new texts on restorative justice edited and authored by social work educators.

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