When Restorative Justice in Schools Works

“People were afraid this was going to be a ‘hippy-dippy-granola, nobody’s-going-to-get-into-trouble’ concept,” said Wellington. “This wouldn’t have been successful if we didn’t start slowly and make sure everyone was really on board.”

.. Restorative-justice programs are not without risk, particularly in school settings, and poor implementation can actually make problems worse, according to some experts. In Los Angeles Unified, the nation’s second-largest school district, it’s been a bumpy two years since suspensions for classroom misbehavior were banned in favor of a restorative justice model.

.. “We have a proven track record in the American education system of taking things that are working, replicating them quickly and badly and consequently discrediting the otherwise good idea,” said Rotherham, who was a policy advisor to the Clinton White House. “Restorative justice has become a hot issue and everyone wants to do it—but it may not be what every school needs.”

The Conservative Case for Criminal Justice Reform

And it’s not just the Left’s sweeping indictment of our system that’s unappealing to conservatives. Many of the so-called reforms offered by progressives seem more concerned with lowering the incarceration rate than lowering the actual crime rate.

.. Respect for the equal dignity of all human life—no matter how small or weak—and for the redemptive capacity of all sinners—no matter how calloused—is the foundation for everything that conservatives stand for. Our approach to policing and punishment should be no different.

.. Just as the government has the power to punish those who break the law, it has a corresponding duty to use its coercive powers responsibly—to sentence offenders on an individualized basis and no longer than necessary.

.. The real problem today is not simply that penalties are too harsh or sentences too long—though in many cases they are. The problem is that, over the past several decades, we have industrialized and bureaucratized our criminal, judicial, and penal systems. Which is to say, we’ve turned them into large, unaccountable, short-sighted, self-interested institutions that often treat offenders as statistical units, instead of human beings.

.. And we have a penal system that isolates offenders from the only people and responsibilities in their life that have the power to facilitate true rehabilitation and redemption.

.. With more than 2 million Americans behind bars today, and one in every 28 American children with an incarcerated parent, the figures are truly startling.

.. All told, between 1960 and 1991 violent crime rates increased by a factor of four, and homicide rates almost doubled across the country.

.. Yet the traditional penitentiary approach to punishment severs the offender’s ties to their family and work life. To make matters worse, prison doesn’t just isolate offenders from networks of trust—it plugs them into networks of distrust.

.. This history shows that criminal justice reform can be, and traditionally has been, a conservative project that accomplishes conservative goals—of balancing retribution and rehabilitation, justice and mercy, the rights of victims and of perpetrators.

.. But the reality is that almost every offender who goes to prison will one day get out. We do ourselves a disservice when an offender’s punishment does more to promote criminality than penitence.

TED: The neuroscience of restorative justice

Daniel Reisel studies the brains of criminal psychopaths (and mice). And he asks a big question: Instead of warehousing these criminals, shouldn’t we be using what we know about the brain to help them rehabilitate? Put another way: If the brain can grow new neural pathways after an injury … could we help the brain re-grow morality?