Source: (2001) Issues in Mental Health Nursing 22:137-149.

The 1990s saw the enactment of much "get tough with young offenders" legislation in the United States. At the same time, problems with our present punishment and treatment model, in which many youngsters cycle repeatedly through the justice and mental health systems, raised interest in restorative justice, a community-based alternative model emphasizing a balanced, negotiated approach to the needs of victims, offenders, and the community. After summarizing the philosophical bases underlying both models, this article describes the practice of restorative justice in New Zealand, where it was pioneered. Restorative justice has special relevance for the Maori community in New Zealand and minority communities in the United States, where youth are consistently overrepresented in the courts, detention centers, and jails, and in which the juvenile justice system is seen as hostile and biased. Outcome data from New Zealand and early outcome research from the United States suggests that the restorative model, in which offenses are understood as a breakdown in social bonds, offers a hopeful alternative for offending youngsters, their families, and their communities.