Models & Processes

Facilitated Communication
- Conference
- Circle
- Dialogue

No Communication

Other Definitions

Models and Processes:

Restorative Justice processes fall into two broad categories, dependent on the kind of communication (if any) that takes place between the person(s) harmed and the person(s) responsible. that is:

- facilitated communication

- cases where communication is either not possible or not appropriate


1) Processes involving facilitated communication include the following:

 ·       Conference: A structured meeting between the person(s) who caused harm, those most affected and both parties’ select support people like family and friends and may involve affected community members, in which they address the harm of the incident and decide how best to repair it.  Neither counseling nor a mediation process, conferencing is a sensitive to those most affected, straightforward problem-solving method that demonstrates how people can resolve their own problems when provided with a constructive forum to do so. (O’Connell, Wachtel, & Wachtel, 1999) Conferences provide those most affected and others with an opportunity to confront the person(s) who caused harm, express their feelings, ask questions and have a say in the outcome.  The person(s) who caused harm hears firsthand how their behavior has affected others.  Conferences hold person(s)s who cause harm accountable while providing them with an opportunity to discard the “offender” label and be reintegrated into their community. (Morris and Maxwell, 2001).

Participation in conferences is voluntary.  A person(s) who causes harm qualifies for a restorative process by taking responsibility for their part of an incident.  After it is determined that a conference is appropriate and the person(s) who caused harm and those most affected have agreed to attend, the conference facilitators invite others affected by the incident – the family and friends of those most affected, the person(s) who caused harm and community members.

A restorative conference can be used in lieu of traditional disciplinary or justice processes, or where that is not appropriate, as a supplement to those processes.

The conference facilitator follows a set format or guide and keeps the conference on focus but is not an active participant.  In the conference the facilitator asks the person(s) who caused harm to tell what they did and what they were thinking about when they did it.  The facilitator then asks those most affected and their family members and friends to tell about the incident from their perspective and how it affected them.  The family of the one who caused harm, and friends are asked to do the same.

Finally, those most affected are asked what he or she would like to repair the harm done by this incident.  Everyone else at the conference has the opportunity to contribute ideas for repair of harm and learning.  When agreement is reached, a simple contract is written and signed (O’Connell, Wachtel, & Wachtel, 1999).  The person(s) who caused harm is then held accountable to completing the contract within the agreed upon time frame.

Processes include: Multi-offender Conference, Victim/Offender Conference, Community Conference

 ·       Circle: A versatile restorative justice practice that fosters cooperation and responsibility in group situations with mutual responsibilities identified.  A restorative circle often doesn’t specify those most affected and who caused harm.

The circle is a process that brings together individuals who wish to engage in conflict resolution, and other activities in which honest communications, relationship development, and community building are core desired outcomes.  Circles offer an alternative to contemporary meeting processes that often rely on hierarchy, win-lose positioning, and those most affected/rescuer approaches to relationships and problem solving (Roca, Inc.).

In a restorative circle, one person speaks at a time: The opportunity to speak moves around the circle, and people wait to speak until the person before them has finished speaking.  The chance to speak continues moving around the circle as many times as necessary, until everyone has said what they need to say.  A “talking piece” is often used to facilitate this process: Whoever is holding the talking piece has the “floor.” Both the restorative circle and the talking piece have roots in ancient and indigenous practices, and continued today (Mirsky, 2004, April & May, Roca, Inc.).

Each person is encouraged to take responsibility for their part in what happened and co-create what will happen next (Note: the process should not imply that those most affected have responsibility in the offense committed against them. “Victim blaming” must be avoided at all costs.)

Processes include: Sentencing Circle, Re-Entry Circle, Peacekeeper Circle, Connection Circle

 ·       Dialogue: Usually a face-to-face meeting between those most affected by an offense and the person(s) who committed that offense with the presence of a trained facilitator.  In this restorative process, the facilitator ensures the safety of the dialog by setting ground rules for the process and holding all parties accountable to those ground rules.  The basic dialog between the person(s) who caused harm and those most affected may explore what happened, who was affected, and how and gives voice to the most directly involved parties.  These restorative processes are best done when initiated by those most affected.

Dialogue is only one option for people to respond to victimization or offense.  This is an individual journey for those most affected and the person(s) who caused harm.  Their reasons for dialogue are personal.  The needs of those most affected and the one who caused harm, expectations, level of support, level of honesty and openness determine what can be accomplished during the dialogue. The process is mutually voluntary.  It can be stopped by either party or when deemed appropriate by the facilitator.  Confidentiality is based on a mutual agreement of who can be told of the dialogue.

Those most affected (and others) have the opportunity to:

o   Directly and constructively express to the person(s) who caused harm the current and repressed feelings such as fear, anger, anxiety, loss, pain, helplessness, hopelessness…

o   Ask questions and receive answers and insights, which only the person(s) who caused harm can provide

o   Have their voices be heard

The person(s) who caused harm has the opportunity to:

o   Face the full human impact of their offense by hearing first-hand the depth of the impact experienced by those most affected

o   Express sincere remorse related to their offense and resulting impact

o   Answer questions posed by those most affected

o   Reach greater accountability by obligating themselves to those most affected and communities

o   Restore to whatever extent possible, what has been wronged within those most affected’s physical, emotional, spiritual, financial and social dimensions of their everyday life

Processes include: Victim/Offender Dialogue, Restorative Discipline, Restorative Conversation

 ·      Panel/Board: A meeting where representatives of those most affected and/or members of the community sit on a panel and speak to person(s) who caused harm about the impacts of offenses on the community.  Boards/Panels are typically composed of a small group of community members, prepared for this function by intensive training, who conduct face-to-face meetings with the person(s) who caused harm who have been referred or sentenced to participate in the process.  Those most affected by the person(s) who caused harm are invited to participate in the process by meeting with the board and the person(s) who caused harm, or by submitting a written statement that is shared with the person(s) who caused harm and the board.  During a meeting, board members discuss with the one who caused harm, the nature of the offense, impact of the behavior, and negative consequences.  Then board members discuss a set of actions with the person(s) who caused harm, until they reach agreement on the specific actions the person(s) who caused harm will take within a given time period to make reparation for the offense. Subsequently, the person(s) who caused harm must document their progress in fulfilling the terms of the agreement.  After the stipulated period of time has passed, the board submits a report to the court on the person(s) who caused harm’s compliance or a written documentation to the referral source, with the agreed upon sanctions.  At this point, the board’s involvement with the person(s) who caused harm is ended.

 ·         “Shuttle Dialogue” involves a facilitator acting as a go-between to enable the person(s) harmed and the person(s) responsible to communicate without meeting.


·         “Restorative Family Group Conferences” are led by a facilitator and are attended by the person(s) responsible, their family members and support persons, and professionals who are working with or have some involvement with the person(s) responsible. The views and requests of any person(s) harmed are obtained by the facilitator and conveyed to those present at the conference. The professionals present their perspective and information on resources they can provide. The ‘family group’ meet privately to come up with an action plan, which is then refined and finalized in the larger group. If the person(s) harmed wishes, the outcome of the conference is fed back to them. This process is often used in the context of addressing anti-social behavior.


·         Processes may also include: Community Justice Committee, Community Impact, Impact of those most affected, and “Restorative” Teen Court


2) Processes where no communication is possible or appropriate currently include the following:


·         “Support for Persons Harmed” involve only the person(s) harmed meeting with a facilitator to talk about their experience, short- and long-term reactions, strategies for recovery and access to other support services.

·         “Victim Awareness” or awareness of those most affected involves only the person(s) responsible in one-to-one or group-work sessions with a facilitator and may include reparative tasks.

·         “Restorative Conversations” involve only the person(s) responsible in a 5-10 minute meeting with a facilitator, normally in an institutional setting (schools, prisons, secure care, etc.), but may also be used to address anti-social behavior or the incidents in the workplace.


Some other definitions:


·         Pre-Conference: Planning activities leading to a structured meeting that may include the person(s) who caused harm, those most affected, both parties’ families and friends, and/or other community members in which a facilitator meets with participating parties to explain the restorative process, understand what happened from each person’s perspective and help people begin to think about how harm may best be repaired.  Planning activities can include pre-conference/pre-circle meetings, interviews, phone conversations or other coordination activities.  This is an essential step for most restorative justice processes.

 ·       Restorative Repairs: Potential agreement/contract items that are often included in restorative justice practices.  They are neither restorative justice nor a restorative practice in and of themselves.  The possibilities for restorative repairs go well beyond this list.  The repair of harm should be determined by a group that includes harmed parties, people responsible for harm and community representatives.  In some restorative practices, repairs may be categorically pre-determined to create efficiencies of process, though this is not recommended as a best practice.  In all cases, repairs should be specific to the incident and the person(s) responsible, build on their strengths, and repair harm.  If the repairs are punitive, they are not restorative.

These include but are not limited to: Restitution, Restorative Community Service, Educational Opportunities, Apologies

 ·       Relationship Building or Informal Restorative Processes

Many practitioners use the skills and knowledge that underpin formal restorative processes informally, using restorative practice as part of their day-to-day work, managing relationships with youth, in facilities and community norms enforcement.  This section describes how the knowledge and skills are being used informally across a wide range of settings.  This use is varied and expanding, from the use of restorative skills in schools to           manage relationships in the classroom, with parents and between staff to use by law enforcement in dealing with incidents of anti-social behavior and as a part of resolving neighborhood disputes, from use in custodial settings to manage internal conflicts, to use in workplaces to deal with grievances.


Some key differences between the use of restorative skills in informal restorative processes and the more formal restorative processes are:

·         relationship building restorative processes are used proactively to prevent harm, as well as in response to an incident of harm

·         they are used by practitioners integrated into their daily work, rather than as a discrete, separate process

·         restorative skills are used on the spot to deal with conflict as it occurs, rather than after the event and following a time of preparation

·         relationship building restorative processes can involve work with just one individual, with two people, or as a group process

·         they can involve training children and young people to use the skills themselves, for example as peer mediators, rather than bringing in an adult or outside professional


A key feature of relationship building restorative processes is that they are used to build relationships within a group or community, to prevent or minimize the likelihood of conflict or harm occurring, rather than solely in response to an incident of harm.  The use of relationship building restorative processes to maintain and strengthen relationships, and even build them where they do not exist, leads to safer and stronger communities where the incidence of harm occurring is reduced.  This leaves groups or communities much better placed, through strong relationships and embedded skills, to deal with harm or conflict when it does occur.