In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Restorative Justice

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • Textbooks
  • Bibliographies
  • Manuals and Guides
  • Journals
  • International and Indigenous Views
  • Origins of Restorative Principles
  • What the Research Tells US
  • Implications for Social Work

Social Work Restorative Justice
Katherine van Wormer
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 November 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0055


“Restorative justice,” as defined in the Social Work Dictionary is “a non-adversarial approach usually monitored by a trained professional who seeks to offer justice to the individual victim, the offender, and the community, all of whom have been harmed by a crime or other form of wrongdoing” (Washington, DC: National Association of Social Workers, 2014. p. 367). This emerging model for resolving conflict and righting a wrong focuses on repairing the harm done by an offense by involving the victim, the offender, and the community. This entry identifies resources on restorative justice theories and strategies with relevance to social workers, mental health professionals, and school and correctional counselors. At the micro level, restorative justice is played out as conferencing between victims and offenders, for example, by way of family group conferences and healing circles. At the macro or societal level, restorative justice takes the form of reparations or truth commissions to compensate for the harm that has been done. The magnitude of the situations covered ranges from interpersonal violence to school bullying to mass kidnappings to full-scale terrorism and warfare. Since in the United States restorative justice has only recently been given formal recognition by the profession of social work, included for the first time the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Encyclopedia of Social Work in 2008, books and articles that specifically relate restorative justice to social work are scarce, and most are of recent vintage. Accordingly many of the listings in this entry are drawn from criminal justice, legal, and international sources, especially from Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.

Introductory Works

The contributions chosen for this section provide concise overviews of the various models of restorative justice. One of the most useful in the literature is the first offering. A well-organized presentation of the basics of restorative justice is provided in Avery 2013. One might also do well to consult the earlier article Bazemore and Umbreit 2001, which includes an easy-to-use diagram that has served the test of time. Van Wormer, et al. 2012 shows how restorative principles can help overcome aspects of oppression in the early-21st-century world and argues that the values of social work are a perfect fit for the values of restorative justice. Also relating this process to social work is the article in the National Association of Social Workers’ newsletter, Fred 2005. For researchers who desire a more philosophical and scholarly approach, see Gavrielides’s two publications (Gavrielides 2008 and Gavrielides 2015). Because it’s rare to find a movie that includes restorative justice processes, the DVD Take is included in this listing (Oliver 2008).

  • Avery, Calhoun. 2013. Introducing restorative justice: Re-visioning responses to wrongdoing. Prevention Researcher 20.1: 3–6.

    Introduces the reader to key concepts and key developments in the restorative movement and describes the main distinctions between the conventional and restorative justice approaches. Also discusses challenges in the field.

  • Bazemore, Gordon, and Mark Umbreit. 2001. A comparison of four restorative conferencing models. Juvenile Justice Bulletin February, 1–20. US Department of Justice.

    A classic. A basic guide to the four models of restorative conferencing: victim-offender conferencing, community reparation boards, family group conferencing, and circle sentencing. The description of each model includes background, information, key concepts, procedures and goals, considerations in implementation, lessons learned from research, and sources of additional information.

  • Fred, Sheryl. 2005. Restorative justice: A model of healing; philosophy consistent with social work values. National Association of Social Workers (NASW) News, February 4.

    This brief newsletter article produced by the National Association of Social Workers provides one of the best introductions to the principles and practices of restorative justice from a social work perspective.

  • Gavrielides, Theo. 2008. Restorative justice: The perplexing concept. Criminology and Criminal Justice 8.2: 165–183.

    DOI: 10.1177/1748895808088993

    Although this article is theoretically complex, the author, who is a restorative justice expert and human rights adviser in the United Kingdom, correctly points to different conceptualizations within the restorative justice movement. For example, some see this movement as an alternative to criminal justice processes, whereas others see these concepts as operating within the system and have a more pragmatic understanding of this form of justice.

  • Gavrielides, Theo, ed. 2015. Offenders no more: An interdisciplinary restorative justice dialogue. Criminal Justice, Law Enforcement and Corrections: Psychology Research Progress. New York: Nova Science.

    Uniquely bringing together thinking from criminology, affect-script psychology, sociology, political sciences and human rights, psychology and positive psychology, and social work, this interdisciplinary collection contributes to rehabilitation theory. Its stated aim is advance the restorative justice field by bringing rehabilitation theory into the restorative justice debate, and vice versa.

  • London, Ross. 2011. Crime, punishment and restorative justice: From the margins to the mainstream. Boulder, CO: Forum.

    Shows how the core values of restorative justice can be integrated within the criminal justice system. London presents the case that this approach and its values could become the overarching goal of all criminal justice policies and practices.

  • Marshall, Chris. 2014. Restoring what? The practice, promise and perils of restorative justice in New Zealand. Policy Quarterly 10.2.

    This article presents a brief history of restorative strategies from Canada in the 1970s and then discusses restorative justice as an approach focusing both on the injury to the victim and relationship.

  • Oliver, Charles, writer and director. 2008. Take. DVD. Los Angeles: Liberation Entertainment.

    This fictional movie examines issues surrounding the death penalty, gun laws, forgiveness, restorative justice, and politics. Minnie Driver plays Ana, a single mother whose life violently intersected with Saul’s (played by Jeremy Renner) many years earlier. Trailer and more information at

  • van Wormer, Katherine, Laura Kaplan, and Cindy Juby. 2012. Confronting oppression, restoring justice: From policy analysis to social action. 2d ed. Alexandria, VA: Council on Social Work Education.

    Written for social workers, this short volume is divided into two parts. The first half of the book concerns the nature of oppression, psychologically and socially. Numerous consciousness-raising experiences are provided. The second half of the book is concerned with injustice and how it can be challenged through human rights and restorative justice initiatives.

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