Restorative Justice at the University of Denver
Restorative Justice (RJ) offers a refreshingly different framework for addressing wrongdoing. It’s a theory of justice that emphasizes reparation of harm or impact caused by behavior that is not aligned with the community expectations (such as the DU Honor Code). RJ goes beyond the act of rule-breaking and focuses on identifying and addressing the impact of one’s actions. Such process is best accomplished through a collaborative discussion process that involves appropriate stakeholders (impacted parties and community members alike). The underlying goal of RJ is to place the decision-making authority about how to best move forward from an incident or conflict into the hands of those involved and/or impacted.
Student Conduct at the University of Denver is implementing restorative justice principles through a specific case resolution format that aims to be educational, restorative, and empowering for all participants: Restorative Justice Conferences (RJCs). RJCs are offered as a one-time opportunity to students who actively take responsibility for their actions, and are willing to learn about the impact caused by their actions. RJCs are distinctive from the traditional case resolution processes in that they focus on identifying and directly addressing the impact caused by the conduct violations, and they directly involve the student, as well as the involved/impacted parties, in the decision making process about appropriate outcomes.
Benefits of the Restorative justice processes
- Empowers participants; allows for individuals to be heard
- Promotes focus on impact of actions, rather than the act of rule-breaking
- Supports sharing of information
- Encourages collaborative decision-making
- Increases participation satisfaction
- Remains confidential
How Restorative Justice is Being Used as a Case Resolution Process within Student Conduct:
Restorative Justice Conference (RJC):
A facilitated dialogue among student respondent(s), involved/impacted parties, and DU community members. Trained facilitators guide the process. Each RJC participant is invited to share their perspective and discuss the impact caused by the student’s actions. After discussion of impact, the RJC participants engage in a collaborative decision-making process to identify appropriate educational outcomes that the student will need to complete in order to resolve the conduct case. The purpose of the agreed-upon outcomes is to help meet the needs of the community, help the student address the impact caused by their actions, and raise the awareness and participation level of all participants.
Initiating the Restorative Justice Conference Process:
Student Conduct cases are referred to the RJC process after a one-on-one hearing with a Conduct Administrator or Housing & Residential Education staff member.
Student Eligibility for Participation in a RJC:
For a student respondent to be eligible to participate in the RJC process, that student must:
- take active responsibility for their actions,
- exhibit a desire to learn about and address the impact of their actions, and
- to move forward positively from the incident by addressing a community need.
For the RJC process to be successful, it is important that eligible student respondents come prepared to accept responsibility for their actions and to listen to those impacted by their actions
Implementing a Restorative Justice Conference (RJC):
There are three phases to the RJC process: a pre-conference one-on-one consultation, the RJC process, and the implementation follow-up of agreed-upon outcomes.
Phase 1 – Pre-Conference Preparation
Once the case is referred to a RJC for resolution, the Restorative Justice Coordinator will initiate contact with the student to schedule a one-on-one consultation. Within this consultation, the student respondent is expected to share their perspective of the incident or conflict, their take on what impact might have occurred, and ways in which they believe they can address the impact. The one-on-one consultation also provides an opportunity for the student respondent to gain more clarity about the process and decide if it is the way they’d like to resolve their conduct case.
Phase 2 - Restorative Justice Conference
Once the student respondent decides to move forward with a RJC in order to resolve their conduct case, the RJ Coordinator will work to bring the appropriate stakeholders together for a RJC. The RJC is a structured discussion with distinct stages:
- Each RJC participant tells their story, describing the incident and the impact it may have had on them. The student respondent gets to speak first in this stage.
- After everyone has shared their perspective, participants are asked to identify the impact of the incident (e.g., any harms that may have occurred)
- After the impact is identified, the facilitator engages the RJC participants in a collaborative decision-making process whereby participants:
- offer suggestions of possible ways for the student to address the impact caused by their actions,
- assess the merits of each suggestion, and
- agree upon a set of specific actions that the student respondent will take in order to best address the impact (Note:
The outcomes, as agreed upon within any RJC, are unique to that particular group, and should be chosen because they help the student repair the specific harms identified, meet an identified community need, rebuild the community’s trust in them, and gain more understanding of the ripple effects of their actions.)
Phase 3 – Outcome Implementation Follow-Up
Once the RJC participants have decided upon a number of active, educational outcomes for the student respondent to complete, the RJ Coordinator will help with follow-up to provide support and ensure completion of the outcomes.