Back to RJ Archive

A phenomenological study of the experience of respondents in campus-based restorative justice programs.

Meagher, Peter
June 4, 2015

Source: (2009) Dissertation. Doctor of Philosophy. Bowling Green State University.

The focus of this dissertation was the use of restorative justice practices in the collegiate
setting. Some have expressed concern with the legal nature of campus conduct processes.
Restorative practices have been implemented in criminal justice and K-12 settings and are seen
by some as an antidote to overly legalistic campus conduct processes. Because there has been
little research on restorative justice practices on college campuses, this study was exploratory in
nature. The primary research question addressed in this study was, what was the experience of
respondents in campus restorative justice processes? The findings included the experience of the
respondents in the restorative session as well as the experience of completing the restorative
Participants were recruited from three campus programs housed at the University of
Colorado at Boulder, Colorado State University, and the University of Michigan. Using a semistructured
interview format, 16 respondents who had participated in campus restorative justice
processes were interviewed at their home campuses. The participants represented a spectrum of
students that varied by age, gender, ethnicity, year-in-school, and type of violation.
The three major categories of themes that arose from the interviews included mediating
factors, restorative sessions, and outcomes. Mediating factors—those issues, experiences,
emotions, and orientations that the participants brought with them to the restorative justice
process—colored, sometimes profoundly, participants’ experiences in their sessions. The
restorative sessions themselves were generally respectful, supportive, and engaging and seemed
to help respondents understand how their actions impacted others. Factors such as social class,
age, and the absence of harmed parties in the restorative session impacted the experience of the
respondents both positively and negatively. The participants expressed changing in substantive
and, at times, profound ways. These changes involved how they viewed themselves in relation
to others, particularly in reference to the precipitating incident; how they viewed the resolution
of the incident; what they learned from the process; and how they have incorporated this learning
into their everyday behavior.
Implications for future research and practice are presented. Attention is focused on such
issues as staff training, multicultural competence, and the importance of restorative sanctions. A
model of how restorative justice works in the collegiate environment is also presented as well as
potential limitations of the approach and impact on student development. The findings in this
study are promising for the practice of restorative justice on the college campus and should lay
the groundwork for its future study.


Support the cause

We've Been Restoring Justice for More Than 40 Years

Your donation helps Prison Fellowship International repair the harm caused by crime by emphasizing accountability, forgiveness, and making amends for prisoners and those affected by their actions. When victims, offenders, and community members meet to decide how to do that, the results are transformational.

Donate Now