By Laura Mirsky
The fourth commencement of the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) Graduate School, on June 25th, 2011, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA, was a little different from the past three. At 35 graduates, the number of students had grown progressively larger than those in the preceding years, as had the overflow crowd of 230-plus family and friends. More significant, perhaps, just two days before, on June 23rd, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education1 granted the IIRP official accreditation status.

 The fourth class of master’s degree recipients of the IIRP Graduate School.“In doing so,” said IIRP president Ted Wachtel in his welcoming remarks, “the Commission affirmed the quality of all of the degrees of all of the students who gambled their time and effort on a new institution and a new field of study that has the goal of positively influencing human behavior and strengthening civil society throughout the world.”

“Not only did the Middle States Commission accredit the IIRP Graduate School,” he continued, “it also proclaimed to the world that restorative practices is a field worthy of study at the highest level. This group of students is about to become graduates of the first accredited higher-education institution in the world that is wholly dedicated to restorative practices.”

There's now a page on the IIRP web site listing all the presentations from the recent world conference. We'll be presenting a weekly series here focusing on papers that have been submitted and linked to this page. In this first installment, it's John Braithwaite's keynote, in which he spoke in general terms about restorative justice, restorative practices, restorative living and related issues.

Braithwaite says that Restorative Justice is about dialogue, active responsibility, healing, building relationships, building human capabilities and prevention of future injustices. However, he argues that while RJ is reluctant "To put a blamed individual and not the problem in the centre" and "To punish," that "Responsive regulation is about the idea that these are things we do resort to when nurturing active responsibility and restorative justice fail and fail again." These ideas are expanded on in Braithwaite's book, Restorative Justice and Responsive Regulation (2002).

From the IIRP's self-study for accreditation of its master program by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education:

"The emerging field of restorative practices is the study of restoring and developing social capital, social discipline, emotional well-being, and civic participation through participatory learning and decision making."

Please feel free to comment below to discuss how you, in your field, can relate to this definition.

View the conference schedule and presentation materials (where provided).


Two comments on the IIRP's 14th International Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia:

One thing I learned is that Restorative Practices advocates are increasingly seeing themselves as part of a broad social movement to build community and hold people accountable using the power of relationships instead of relying on impersonal coercion and punishment.

-- John Bailie, IIRP Director of Continuing Ed

[quote]The Halifax IIRP conference was my 14th such conference and without a doubt was the most impressive I have experienced. The quality of the 100 or so workshops was outstanding. The first day plenary sessions were riveting with a range of impressive presenters. Congratulations to Jennifer Llewellyn [NSRJ- CURA] and Ted & Susan Wachtel [IIRP] for your visionary leadership.[/quote]

-- Terry O'Connell, Director of IIRP Australia

This article by the manager of the Nova Scotia Restorative Justice Program gives a history of the program from its start in 1977 as well as major program components and goals. 

The director of the Nova Scotia Restorative Justice Community University Research Alliance  (NSRJ-CURA), which cosponsored the June 2011 IIRP World Conference, welcomes conference attendees and explains the history and focus of NSRJ-CURA.

By Joshua Wachtel

On March 15, 2011, the Netherlands Parliament voted unanimously to amend the Child Protection Act. The Act now grants parents or guardians of a child the right to meet with family and other involved friends or close family supporters to make their own plan regarding how to care for a child of concern. The right to meet and make a plan for a child comes as a first recourse before the state and courts are permitted to intervene.

Rob van Pagée, director of Eigen Kracht Centrale, a nonprofit organization that led lobbying efforts for the law said, “We see this as a validation for the rights of citizens.”

Eigen Kracht Centrale’s family group conference (FGC) model is based on the New Zealand model, which was encoded in law as a first resort for Maori and Pakeha children in 1989. Eigen Kracht, meaning “our strength” or “our power,” introduced family group conferencing to the Netherlands in 2001 and has since trained over 500 paid part-time coordinators who have run over 4000 Eigen Kracht conferences. Family group conferencing (FGC) is known as family group decision making (FGDM) in the US.

"I used to be really loud because I was talking over the kids in my classroom. I would yell and be sarcastic. The students’ response was, ‘You’re gonna yell at me? We yell all the time at my house.’ In my classroom now, because of restorative practices, we’re all quieter than we used to be and listening is deeper. And classes are more relaxing and less tiring than they used to be for me." —Erin Dunlevy, Spanish and drama teacher, High School for Arts, Imagination and Inquiry, New York City

Teachers in 22 schools across the US are having experiences like Erin Dunlevy’s, due to the IIRP’s two-year Whole-School Change Program. An explicit road map for training entire school staffs, the program also includes built-in systems for monitoring, measuring and sustaining implementation. The complete program is spelled out in the Restorative Practices Whole-School Implementation Overview, at:

“We have been working on training in restorative practices for public education for many years,” said IIRP director of continuing education John Bailie. “The most current evolution is not just about teaching the skills of restorative practices but effecting lasting, sustainable organizational change. Schools are large, complex organizations that aren’t easy to change.”

By Thomas S. Fertal

Tom Fertal is principal of Lancaster Catholic High School, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA. He is also a Master of Restorative Practices and Education candidate at the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) Graduate School, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

In the summer of 2008 I enrolled in my first restorative practices courses at the International Institute for Restorative Practices Graduate School in Bethlehem. I had just been named vice principal of student affairs at my high school. My major responsibility was student discipline.

As an administrator at a private, faith-based school, I had never been satisfied with the traditional system of detentions, suspensions and “Saturday school” in use at our school. I had long known that we needed an alternative to those traditional methods, but I hadn’t known what they might be.

I had heard the term “restorative justice,” but at the time I hadn’t known much about it. A quick search on the internet had led me to the IIRP in Bethlehem, my old hometown, a mere 70 miles from my school!

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