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Natasha S. Alford/Medill Reports

Natasha Alford (right) talks with Derious Smith (left) a former Fenger High School student who has been trained in restorative justice philosophy. Smith explains why some youth resort to violence to manage conflict and how restorative justice can diffuse explosive situations.

Restorative justice at work for Chicago youth and professionals

by Natasha S. Alford
Jun 12, 2014


Natasha S. Alford/Medill Reports

Mike Work (left) a third-year law student at Northwestern University, presents his final project in his restorative justice class. He recently took part in a prison visit to witness restorative justice practices at work with inmates. Work says he will become a criminal defense attorney.


Natasha S. Alford/Medill Reports

Delonte Walker (right) speaks with a co-worker at Curt’s Café in Evanston. The café uses restorative justice principles in its hiring and accepts employee referrals from parole officers looking to give young offenders a new start. Walker, who once struggled with skipping school, is now studying for his GED.


Natasha S. Alford/Medill Reports

Natasha Alford (left) speaks with Dr. Howard Zehr (right), a pioneer in the field of restorative justice. Zehr says the practice is often misunderstood.

In a country that incarcerates an alarmingly high number of its citizens— particularly young men of color—there is a growing movement to find alternatives to prisons in the United States.

One not-so-new approach that has reemerged in the national spotlight is called restorative justice, a philosophy that asks offenders to assume responsibility and “repair harm,” rather than just punishing them.

In this edition of Medill Newsmakers, we explore how restorative justice can be applied in schools, on the job and in the training of future lawyers.