This Week One, project-based simulation course is designed to introduce students to restorative justice theory and practice. Across the country restorative justice has emerged as an alternative approach to addressing harm in the juvenile and criminal justice systems, in schools, and in community settings. This has increasingly placed lawyers (and judges) in the role of decision makers regarding the use of restorative justice at different stages of the juvenile and criminal justice process (i.e., pre-trial diversion, deferred adjudication, sentencing, and re-entry); architects of restorative justice community courts; policymakers implementing and integrating restorative responses into legislation; and practitioners of restorative justice in a variety of settings.
Restorative justice is a distinct form of conflict resolution that aims to redirect society’s retributive response to harm. For example, crime, in the context of restorative justice, is not considered just an offense against the state but rather is viewed as a wrong against another person and indicative of a broken relationship between the offender, victim, and community. Accordingly, restorative justice practice seeks to elevate the role of victims and community members, hold offenders directly accountable for their harm(s), and restore, to the extent possible, the emotional and material losses of victims through dialogue and problem solving.
The course aims to improve students’ understanding of restorative justice and their effectiveness as future lawyers. The pedagogy of this course is grounded in an understanding that students must perform complex skills in order to gain expertise. The design of the course is primarily experiential and will expose students to skills associated with interviewing, fact investigation, conflict resolution, problem solving, facilitation, professional collaboration, and self-reflection. To introduce these skills students will engage in (actual and simulated) restorative justice practices (i.e., circles, conferences and/or dialogues) as well as view and analyze case study videos of restorative practices.