Restorative Justice Basics for Running a Restorative Peer Court

A. The Power of Peer Inclusion

When peers of a youth offender are present to listen to the offender’s story, help the offender consider the impacts on others, and determine constructive sanctions for mending the situation, it is proven that such an offender, on average, will have greater motivation to make amends and to make positive adjustments. For that reason, a youth court model is an effective way to help youth offenders get back on the right track. Youth offenders are being invited into a re-socialization process to make things right and take responsibility for their own actions.

B. The Power of Restorative Justice

Traditional courts usually focus on establishing guilt and determining a sentence that fits the crime. This is often based on the law that was broken. A youth court process informed by restorative justice is looking at what is broken between people, and therefore it seeks an outcome that is more reparative than punitive.

Restorative Justice is based on Two Key Principles:

  • Harm-focused more than Law-focused
  • Engages people in resolution processes

Restorative Justice gives balanced attention to…

             Offenders          Victims         Communities

Three Views on Crime:

  • Hard on Crime =High Accountability and Low Support
  • Soft on Crime =Low Accountability and High Support
  • Smart on Crime = High Accountability and High Support

 RJ is Smart on Crime because…


 Support in Peer Court Setting:

  • Peer Support: “We’re all in this together!”
  • Adult Support: “We want you to succeed!”

Accountability in Peer Court Setting:

  • Understanding how actions have affected others
  • Understanding how thinking patterns affect choices
  • Taking responsibility to make amends
  • Taking responsibility to change behaviors


Restorative building blocks: Ownership, Emapthy, Reparation


These three Building Blocks correspond with the three questions that set the outline for the court discussion:

  1. What Happened? (a discussion of the offense)   PAST
  2. Who’s Affected? (a discussion of the impacts)   PRESENT
  3. How are Repairs Made? (a discussion of the resolution)   FUTURE

If offenders learn something new about how their actions have affected other people beyond themselves, and not just feel bad about the consequences they themselves have experienced, they will have a greater capacity to shift their thinking in the future.  This shift, based on empathy and respect toward others, will lessen the chances of re-offending.

Overall Goals for a Restorative Teen Court:

To help youth offenders restore their relationships with the community through an alternative peer-based justice process that emphasizes internal learning, relational accountability, and giving back to the community.


If crime breaks something, justice should mend it.


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