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Restorative justice: A primer and exploration of practice across two North American cities

June 11, 2013

…This section provides examples of how restorative justice processes are implemented in two very different metropolitan areas. The Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice (IPSSJ), in collaboration with Illinois Balanced and Restorative Justice Project (IBARJP) conducted a pilot restorative justice inventory of practitioners in both the Chicago area and in the Vancouver, B.C. area (lower mainland B.C.). These two areas were chosen to contrast in a case study comparison precisely because the contexts are very different.

…Online and phone survey data were collected from organizations in each area known to implement restorative justice processes. In the case of Vancouver, organizations were identified through a list stemming from an area conference that organized restorative justice practitioners. In Chicago, IBARJP identified practitioners to participate in the inventory process based on an established history of practicing RJ and active involvement in current citywide RJ initiatives. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with Chicago area organizations in addition to some online survey data collection. In total, 33 practitioners in the Vancouver area participated in the survey, while 18 in the Chicago area participated, representing 20 distinct initiatives. 

…Vancouver area practitioners have a longer history implementing restorative practices, as respondents indicated their organization had been using restorative practices for a median of 11 years, compared to 8 years in Chicago. A major difference between area practices is that Vancouver respondents and their respective organizations were almost entirely focused on restorative practices, as opposed to Chicago, where restorative practices are more likely a small percentage of what the organization does. For example, 85% of Vancouver area respondents reported that 100% of the organization or practitioner’s time is focused on restorative justice. By contrast, only 17% of Chicago respondents represented an organization or practice that was solely focused on restorative justice. It is more common for Chicago practitioners to dedicate only a small percentage of their efforts to restorative justice practices (or philosophies). In addition, the efforts of Chicago practitioners were almost entirely focused on using restorative practices with youth. Over 70% of practitioners in Chicago reported working exclusively with youth, while only 22% reported also working with adults and families. By comparison, over 60% of Vancouver practitioners reported using restorative practices with adults in addition to youth.

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