Restorative justice and the arts

Don’t miss our webinar next week!

How can artistic practices and approaches be applied in restorative justice? In what ways might restorative approaches and principles inform artistic practices? In this webinar, the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Restorative Justice Program will provide a case study in the intersection of socially-engaged art and restorative justice.

The Mural Arts Program incorporates the theory of restorative justice in providing art instruction, mural making, community service work and a paid work program, (the Guild) within the criminal justice system. Inmates, returning citizens and juveniles are afforded the opportunity to learn new skills and make a positive contribution to their communities to repair prior harm caused, reclaim public spaces, develop competency skills and engage victims of crime in dialog. The Mural Arts Program has focused its Restorative Justice work in three areas: inside Graterford State Correctional Institution; with its Guild Program; and with the juvenile justice system.

Join Jane Golden, Executive Director, Robyn Buseman, Restorative Justice Program Director, and a program artist to learn more about the program and view the work.

Howard Zehr will facilitate the webinar.

Registration is free.

When: April 23, 2014, 4:30-6 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (United States)

April 16th, 2014 – by Howard Zehr Zehr (category: Peacebuilding, Photography, Restorative Justice)

Restorative justice as a social movement: upcoming webinar

Our next webinar, entitled “Possibility or pipedream:  A restorative justice movement,” is coming up March 19, 2014.

Join us for a frank conversation between Dr. Dana Greene and Dr. Carl Stauffer exploring the unrealized revolutionary promise of restorative justice. They will examine the current direction of restorative justice in particular highlighting missteps all too reminiscent of past reforms. They will discuss tactics, strategies, assets, and as of yet neglected opportunities to use restorative justice to foment a social justice movement in the United States.

Carl and Dana have given considerable thought to social movements and the extent to which restorative justice is, or can be, a true movement.  Here is a chance to explore this important topic.

If the $10 charge is an issue, email Lindsay Martin Styer ( to have the fee waived.

Update: The webinar recording is now available.

March 13th, 2014 – by Howard Zehr Zehr (category: Peacebuilding, Restorative Justice)

Critical conversation with “The New Jim Crow” – next webinar

Real World Restorative Justice Webinar: Tuesday, Feb. 18, 4:30-6:00 p.m. EST

Michelle Alexander’s book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness,” has gained widespread attention for its compelling analysis of the relationship between mass incarceration and racism in the U.S. Join us as guests Jacqueline Roebuck Sahko, Shiv Desai and Nekima Levy-Pounds begin a dialogue about intersecting the lanes of education, race, discipline and community-centric practice. What strategies can folks on the ground adopt to address these issues? For more information and to register, visit


February 14th, 2014 – by Howard Zehr Zehr (category: Peacebuilding, Restorative Justice)

Where are the gaps? We need your help.

In the early days of the restorative justice field, from the late 1970s into the early 1990s, I was in a unique position to resource this emerging field. As Director of the Office on Crime and Justice of Mennonite Central Committee U.S (MCC), my mandate was to do what needed to be done.

Although the program’s staff was very small (usually a part-time assistant and me) and was not endowed with huge funding, I had time and sufficient financial resources to create materials, organize gatherings or conferences, and to help communities that asked for assistance in understanding and implementing restorative justice projects. I also had access to the significant publication and communication capabilities of MCC. Part of that time, MCC Canada had a similar office and we often collaborated.  Before undertaking any major initiative, I would usually call upon a small group of ad hoc advisors for their feedback. My primary focus was upon communities and and practitioners.

When trying to decide what needed to be done, and where to focus resources and energy, I asked a series of questions: 1) Where is the field going?   2) What does it need to move ahead, and most importantly, 3) What are the gaps? That is, what needs to be done that isn’t being done and that our small program might be able to address? In other words, I tried to avoid duplicating efforts and focused on pieces that I felt were missing.

Read more…

January 3rd, 2014 – by Howard Zehr Zehr (category: Restorative Justice)

Reflections on Mandela

“Have you heard that Mandela died?” The staggering impact of this question took my breath away as I stepped into the office after teaching a full day of classes at Eastern Mennonite University on Thursday, December 5th. I texted my daughter who had grown up in South Africa, with these simple words, “Wow – this is huge!” Mourning the enormous loss of Mandela has evoked memories of living in South Africa from 1994 to 2009.

During my first two of 16 years living in South Africa, I was privileged to shadow a great mentor, Morontshi Matsobane, who spent 14 years in the prime of his life (ages 26-40) in prison for his political activity – 12 of those years were spent on Robben Island with Mandela.

Morontshi was released in 1990, just three months after Mandela. Shedding bitterness and hate, he immediately returned to the community organizing and development work that put him in prison to begin with. I observed Morontshi patiently mediate peace and security needs in a transitional period marred by violence as the country struggled for its dignity and the equal redistribution of land, labor, and livelihoods. In many of these negotiations, he was interacting with the very apartheid ‘security’ apparatus responsible for his harassment, arrest and eventual imprisonment. Morontshi is one of the most gracious, forgiving and kind souls I know. He is one of many persons who we called a “little Mandela” – and there were many like him.

As the example of Morontshi demonstrates, Mandela and his ways have taken root in the collective psyche of South Africa and have changed much of the world’s psyche. He embodied what it meant to live with integrity and with few regrets. Indeed, his leadership presence seemed to be encoded with the moral fiber that now guides conceptions of good governance and just polity at a global level. Mandela transmitted his DNA to us. And herein lies the hope.

Read more…

December 16th, 2013 – by Carl Stauffer Stauffer (category: Peacebuilding, Restorative Justice)

Restorative justice and the Gandhian tradition

I recently had occasion to reflect on some of the points of resonance between restorative justice and the Gandhian tradition.  I am particularly grateful for the help of my friend Sujatha Baliga in this.

As a Mennonite, I grew up in a family and a tradition of nonviolence and peacemaking, and knew something of Gandhi.  However, it was as a student at Morehouse College, during the civil rights era, that I engaged more deeply.  It was there that my understanding of the Gandhian tradition was mediated through the work and example of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (whom I had the privilege to meet), Dr. Vincent Harding (a long-time influence on my life), my professors and the civil rights activists with whom I came in contact.

Many observers (and not only those within what has been called the “peacemaking criminology” tradition) have noted that our criminal justice system is based on, and enforced by, violence or the threat of violence.  Political scientists often point out that the basis of the modern state is the “legitimate monopoly on violence.” The criminal justice system is a major player in enacting and expressing this:  “You’ve harmed us, so we will harm you.”

Read more…

October 23rd, 2013 – by Howard Zehr Zehr (category: Peacebuilding, Restorative Justice)

Next webinar: RJ, public policy and compassion

Our next webinar is coming up on October 23, with Chris Marshall from New Zealand as guest

Chris is both a restorative justice practitioner and a biblical scholar. He is probably the world’s leading scholar bringing together restorative justice and the Christian tradition, and in a way that has immediate relevance to overall society. In his book Compassionate Justice, upon which this webinar is based, Chris brings modern insights from psychology and justice to bear on two famous biblical parables, then goes on to explore the role of compassion in public policy generally.

The webinar will be of use to those interested in the Christian tradition from a religious and/or sociological/historical perspective, but will also be of interest to those involved in restorative justice generally.  His argument and its implications have to do with restorative justice practice in general and its implications for public policy.

See our website to join:

Here is the description posted there:

Taking a cue from two well-known parables of Jesus, in his new book Compassionate Justice, Chris Marshall argues that the true significance of restorative justice lies in its capacity to mobilize compassion in the service of justice, at both a personal and political or institutional level. In this webinar, Chris will discuss his approach of bringing biblical teaching into dialogue with restorative justice theory to generate new insights into both, as well as to suggest achievable goals for the justice system and public life in general.

Chris Marshall is a New Testament scholar and long-time RJ practitioner in New Zealand with a longstanding involvement in restorative justice. He is currently Head of the School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Among his many publications are Beyond Retribution: A New Testament Vision of Justice, Crime and Punishment (Eerdmans, 2001), Crowned with Glory and Honor: Human Rights in the Biblical Tradition (Pandora, 2001), The Little Book of Biblical Justice (Good Books, 2005) andCompassionate Justice: An Interdisciplinary Dialogue with Two Gospel Parables on Law, Crime and Restorative Justice (Cascade, 2012).

October 9th, 2013 – by Howard Zehr Zehr (category: Peacebuilding, Restorative Justice)

Fall restorative justice webinar series

Our fall webinar series begins Sept. 18.   Click here for more information.

Although there is a small charge for participating live on these webinars, scholarships are available.

Please join us!


Real World Restorative Justice Webinars

A Project of the Zehr Institute

Fall 2013 Schedule

September 18:
Seeking Justice in Societies Transitioning from Violence with Beatrice Pouligny

October 23:
Restorative Justice and the Cultivation of Public Compassion with Chris Marshall

November 13:
Fambul Tok: Community Transitional Justice in Sierra Leone with John Caulker

December 4:
The Paradox of being an Indigenous Restorative Justice Practitioner with Harley Eagle


September 12th, 2013 – by Howard Zehr Zehr (category: Restorative Justice)

Justice for Trayvon Martin – Adjudication or community? (Part III)

(Last of the three-part series by David Anderson Hooker)

I take issue with three groups of comments that I’ve heard since the Zimmerman trial. I know that I am in disagreement with several individuals and institutional voices that I respect deeply. Yet I think our approach must change to get the life we want: a life in which everyone has full and fundamentally equal access to the resources and opportunities needed for full actualization.

Comment #1 – “The system failed.”  The criminal adjudication system is not equipped to fulfill the task it was assigned in this case: to make meaning of a senseless death. The primary function of a criminal proceeding is to discover facts and assign individual responsibility for any wrongdoing.

In this case, the basic facts were clear: An older, white-looking man saw an African American child who he deemed suspicious. Ignoring police direction, he followed the child who was talking on the phone while walking home from the store. The child told his friend that the man was “creepy,” indicating a sense of discomfort at being followed. At some point, the older man got close enough in his pursuit that he and the child had a direct confrontation. The man was armed; the child was not. The child was shot and killed. The man walked away.

Read more…

August 5th, 2013 – by Howard Zehr Zehr (category: Peacebuilding, Restorative Justice)

Justice for Trayvon Martin – The fear factor (Part II)

As I argued in my last blog entry (Part I), making a difference must start with approaching justice differently.  Justice describes the relational qualities among people. Said another way: justice is rooted in community. For actions to be just, they must be aligned with established community values or seek to restore the quality of relationships that are aligned with those values. Because I don’t believe the criminal adjudication process effectively defines justice, I offer the following as my description:

Justice exists when systems, institutions, and relational patterns are all aligned, oriented and operating so that every living being has full and fundamentally equal access to the resources and opportunities needed for full community thriving and individual actualization.

Read more…

August 1st, 2013 – by Howard Zehr Zehr (category: Restorative Justice)