Preventing and addressing harms and conflicts through trust-building, healing dialogue, while prizing the values of respect, relationship, responsibility, and reintegration.

Restorative justice says… “the offense affected a relationship” and what you are seeking for is to restore the relationship. – Desmond Tutu

photograph by Howard Zehr


A helpful summary statement:

“(Restorative justice) is a growing social movement to institutionalize peaceful approaches to harm, problem-solving and violations of legal and human rights. These range from international peacemaking tribunals such as the South Africa Truth and Reconciliation Commission to innovations within the criminal and juvenile justice systems, schools, social services and communities. Rather than privileging the law, professionals and the state, restorative resolutions engage those who are harmed, wrongdoers and their affected communities in search of solutions that promote repair, reconciliation and the rebuilding of relationships. Restorative justice seeks to build partnerships to reestablish mutual responsibility for constructive responses to wrongdoing within our communities. Restorative approaches seek a balanced approach to the needs of the victim, wrongdoer and community through processes that preserve the safety and dignity of all.”  – Carolyn Boyes-Watson from Suffolk University (2014)

Restorative justice is about making connections between healing and accountability. This leads to the humanization of processes that make connections between people.     – Mark Umbreit

In this website, restorative justice is explored mostly in the ways it intersects with biblical and ecclesial traditions. This focus is quite limited, though, as restorative justice intersects with many other traditions and realms of practice, let alone, with the criminal justice system. One way to approach this ‘multi-affinity’ aspect of restorative justice, within the context of religion and spirituality, is to consider the many roots that first nourished it and continue to sustain it.

Within the narrower context of church-related work, restorative justice can be viewed as having missional practices and communal practices. In this website, the Practices section is mostly dedicated to peacemaking efforts within church communities, but it applies equally well to all communities of faith.

Other expressions of restorative justice that are missional from church communities include:

    • Prisons and Re-Entry

    • Services to Offending and Victimized People

    • International Transitional Justice

    • Trauma-informed Services

    • Forums for Civic Discourse

    • Race Relations and Historical Harm

    • Truth and Reconciliation Commissions

    • Community-Building Projects through Dialogue

Introductory Readings

Read a  short one-page summary of restorative justice by Howard Zehr, posted on the Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice.

Read a longer summary article that bridges restorative justice into the context of church conflicts by Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz.

A classic introductory book is Howard Zehr’s Changing Lenses: Restorative Justice for our Times (Herald Press, 2015 edition) which was first written in 1990.

Two earlier classic books that informed Zehr’s thinking are Limits to Pain: The Role of Punishment in Penal Policy by Nils Christie, and Justice as Sanctuary by Herman Bianchi.

Justpeace Ethics: A Guide to Restorative Justice and Peacebuilding  by Jarem Sawatsky

(Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2008)

A good primer book for learning more about restorative justice through a ‘Values and Virtues’ lens is Jarem Sawatsky’s Justpeace Ethics book which does very well to unify the fields of conflict resolution with restorative responses to harm and violence.

“What if justice isn’t ugly? What if justice is something beautiful and whole? If injustice is about excluding, taking away, breaking, and being shamed, then shouldn’t justice be more about embracing, giving back, connecting, and becoming radiant? If injustice is about losing identity, shouldn’t justice be about rediscovering identity?” – Jarem Sawatsky (2)


The Little Book of Race and Restorative Justice: Black Lives, Healing, and US Social Transformation  by Fania E. Davis

(Skyhorse Publishers, 2019)

In our era of mass incarceration, gun violence, and Black Lives Matters, a handbook showing how racial justice and restorative justice can transform the African-American experience in America.

This timely work will inform scholars and practitioners on the subjects of pervasive racial inequity and the healing offered by restorative justice practices. Addressing the intersectionality of race and the US criminal justice system, social activist Fania E. Davis explores how restorative justice has the capacity to disrupt patterns of mass incarceration through effective, equitable, and transformative approaches. Eager to break the still-pervasive, centuries-long cycles of racial prejudice and trauma in America, Davis unites the racial justice and restorative justice movements, aspiring to increase awareness of deep-seated problems as well as positive action toward change.

View the entire set of Little Books on Justice and Peacebuilding Series