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Review: The little book of restorative justice for colleges and universities

September 18, 2013
Author: David Karp, Good Books. ISBN13: 9781561487967

…The Little Book can be broken down into two distinct parts. Chapters two through six engage the reader into the many positives of restorative justice, and how different types of restorative justice models look and work on different campuses. The seventh chapter is a transition chapter, which is a two-page summary of the author’s empirical work at eighteen institutions, analyzing the effectiveness of restorative justice programs against non-restorative justice programs. The first and eighth chapters are strong anecdotal chapters that are meant to set the reader up for the following section. The second part, starting with chapter nine, is a chapter-by-chapter guide on how to start, implement, and effectively run a restorative justice program on the reader’s campus.

…The author cites a number of institutions that have implemented restorative justice programs as part of larger, more comprehensive student conduct programs. In chapter nine, the author suggests implementing restorative justice programming for conduct issues that cause reparable harm. The problem here is that for restorative justice to work, the student must admit fault. Generally, students either admit fault right away at the first stage of the disciplinary process, or the students appeal their sanctions to some sort of hearing board to decide their fates.  How does RJ fit within this scheme? How often does a student who admits a serious crime admit fault early on enough in the process for an RJ approach to be useful and not too resource draining? These are a few questions left unanswered by the author. 

…Overall, The Little Book is a good, short read that offers insight into three broad categories of RJ practices. The Little Book uses just twenty-four pages of text to explain to the reader how to start and implement an RJ program on his or her campus, which is not enough. The use of extreme anecdotes and an abundance of quotes take away from the theoretical foundations that the author attempts to build upon throughout the book. The Little Book’s organization feels fragmented, and it would have been useful if the author sectioned out the book  describing the purpose of each section. At five dollars, though, the book is an excellent beginner’s guide to building an RJ program at any higher education institution.

Read the full review.


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