Back to RJ Archive

Restorative Justice Systemic Change: The Washington County Experience.

Coates, Robert B
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) Federal Probation. 68(3):16-23.

Organizational change is rarely easy, particularly when it must occur in a large organization marked by political agendas, such the American correctional system. Since the 1980’s, the correctional and criminal justice systems have been struggling with incorporating the voice of victims within the routine response to crime and criminal offenders. Washington County Court Services in Minnesota recently undertook a reform effort to include restorative justice principles as the basis for their response to crime; the Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking at the University of Minnesota was asked to document the reform effort and identify barriers to change. Data included existing records and interviews with 16 key individuals. The precursors leading to the reform effort are described followed by a discussion of the change strategies that were employed by the County Court Services. The change strategies involved three separate groups: (1) department staff; (2) criminal justice system decisionmakers; and (3) community members. The key to successful reform was identified by one interviewee as the partnerships made with community service organizations capable of incorporating restorative justice practices into their operations. The outcomes of the reform efforts and how they impacted each of the three groups is described; the reform effort was largely successful in bringing restorative justice practices to Washington County and sustaining them over a number of years. In the end, it seems that reform efforts that are properly managed in terms of resolving inevitable conflicts will be successful more often than reform efforts that only focus on sharing a philosophy. Abstract courtesy of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service,


AbstractCourtsNorth America and CaribbeanPolicePrisonsRJ in SchoolsRJ OfficeStatutes and LegislationSystemVictim Offender Mediation
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