Restorative Justice in Higher Education: A Case Study of Program Implementation and Sustainability

Restorative justice is an emerging topic related to college student behavioral issues and offers a personal behavior alternative strategy. It is used predominantly to address crime, misconduct, and injustices in criminal justice, K-12 education, and higher education arenas. Restorative justice addresses harm through dialogue with goals of repairing harm, rebuilding trust, and repairing relationships through a mutual decision-making process in order to determine outcomes with responsibilities for all participants. The literature demonstrates how restorative justice complimented student conduct processes, developed empathy, had a positive impact on school and campus culture, and the advancement of cultural and diverse competencies, and incurred great satisfaction by the participant. Literature further states that restorative justice is supported by many professional groups in the Roman Catholic higher education setting as a personal behavior alternative strategy and reflects the spirit of Catholic Social Teachings. This study examined how a Roman Catholic university implemented and sustained a restorative justice program at one site in southern California. Data included interviews and focus groups with leaders and facilitators working actively within the program. Emergent themes from the qualitative data includes: institutional need, shared belief system, university identity, Catholic Social Teachings, proactive use of restorative justice and restorative practices, reactive use of restorative justice and restorative practices, systematic training, collaboration, institutional support, institutionalizing the program, storytelling, reframing current work, frequent use of restorative justice practices impact of program sustainability on campus, impact of cultural experience, empathy, conflict management, local and national recognition, and student voice.