Resources: A Brief History of Restorative Justice

Roots of Restorative Practices
From the earliest time, communal societies used various forms of restitution and mediation to address conflict and restore balances of power. However, starting with William the Conqueror in the 11th century, European leaders worked to secure their power over that of the Church by creating retributive justice systems that replaced the victims’ role in the process with the state. However, restorative practices were kept alive by communities who continued to practice them, often despite western attempts at cultural genocide and legal hegemony. They are now being reaccepted as integral elements of healthy societies and justice systems, for example to address the exponential rise of incarceration rates that has taken place over the past century in the United States.

The Modern Restorative Justice Movement
Although restorative justice has a long history, it has only gained institutional prominence in the West in the past few decades.

* 1974: The first VORP (victim/offender reconciliation program) takes place in Kitchener, Ontario.
* 1977: Albert Eglash coins the term “restorative justice” to refer to these ancient concepts.
* 1978: First US VORP takes place in Elkhard, IN.
* 1989: New Zealand passes the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act in response to pressure from Maori activists, marking the first formal use of Family Group Conferencing.
* 1992: First western institutional  use of circles, a traditional healing method of many First Nation and Indigenous peoples of Canada and the southwest US, in Canada’s Yukon Territory.
* 1995: South Africa uses a Truth and Reconciliation Committee to assign responsibility for and begin to heal from Apartheid and move forward as a country.
* 2002: The United Nations endorses the use of Restorative Justice.
* 2006:  Restorative Justice is used to replace zero tolerance policies in the Oakland school district.


To learn more, we recommend the following articles:

Restorative Practices: From the Early Societies to the 1970s by Theo Gavrielides
* Restorative Justice Practices of Native American, First Nation and Other Indigenous People of North America from IIRP.
* An Indigenous Commentary on the Globalisation of Restorative Justice by Juan Tauri