Common RJ Practices
RJ practices themselves include a few different approaches, not limited to Circles, Restorative Dialogue/Restorative Circles and Restorative Conferences (Family and Community).
Circles involve a group of people connected in some form of relationship (i.e. students in a classroom, adult colleagues at work, community members of a city or town) who voluntarily come together to physically sit in a circle to build their relationships through facilitated dialogue on topics or subject matter of relevance to them. The process includes a welcome and introduction, followed by the opportunity for people to share their values and agree to a set of commitments as to behavior during the Circle. Utilizing a talking piece, a hand-held object used to facilitate the answering of questions or responding to prompts, participants have opportunity to speak one at a time in sequenced rounds and the group explores topics or confronts challenges in a respectful listening environment. Often, Circle topics reveal individual values and beliefs, as well as shared interests and activities that foster collaboration and consensus building.
Restorative Dialogue/Restorative Circles (also known as Victim-Offender Mediation) involve the use of the “Restorative Questions” in order to process challenging situations where some harm or conflict has occurred. Questions can be posed one-on-one, (e.g. if a teacher were to witness a student being disruptive during class-time); or in a group setting for more complex situations, (e.g. if a fight were to break out in the cafeteria between multiple students). Questions may vary but are designed to lead the conversations to explore what happened, the thought process involved, how the person feels about their action, how they think the victim feels and what needs to be done to make things right if possible.
Restorative Conferences are a more intense version of Restorative Practices, typically reserved for serious offenses or harm, and utilize a more formal process intentionally designed for the people involved and those most affected by the event(s). Within the Restorative Conference session(s), the facilitator(s) navigates and guides the process utilizing a scripted series of questions such that everyone in attendance has opportunity to speak about how the incident has impacted their life and livelihood, or generally about how they have been affected. Conferences are thoughtfully planned and structured by skilled facilitator(s) to provide for the best outcome, in a meaningful and restorative way, for all involved.