top of page


Hands in a circle
A classroom circle

Restorative Practice or Restorative Justice has its roots in Indigenous cultures from around the world; North American tribes and New Zealand’s Māori people have been especially influential on Restorative Practice in the United States. The practice involves bringing a community together to solve a problem or work through a disruption; traditionally, the centerpiece of these meetings is a fire which everyone gathers around. This idea has never gone away. King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table used the circle, as do modern diplomats meeting to bring peace to troubled areas. The circle is a symbol of community. No one in the circle is at the head of the line; everyone is equal.


Restorative Justice saw growth in the early 2000s when Victim-Offender programs began in the court system. Restorative Justice considers both parties, and examines the following:


  • The person who has been harmed.

    • How can the damage to them be repaired?

    • What is needed to make them feel whole again?

  • The person who did the harm.

    • Are they willing to take accountability?

    • Are they willing to work to fix it?

    • Why did they do it, and what might prevent it from happening again?

Through this process, both parties can know how the other person felt, what they were thinking at the time of the incident, and how they are feeling now. Restorative Justice allows both parties to feel whole and to feel that their needs have been met. The harmed person feels heard and gets accountability from the other person. The person who did the harm, through their acceptance of the fact that it did harm and their willingness to repair it, feels relief from further punishment.


Restorative Justice has since grown to include the more general Restorative Practice. Restorative Practice is most commonly used in schools, which use many different types of circles, including the following:


  • Community Building Circle

    • Often used at the beginning of the school day to build trust, understanding, and a sense of community.

    • Have been shown to decrease class disruptions and improve grades.

    • The time it takes to do the circle makes up for itself in time saved on disruptions.

  • Harm Repair Circle

    • Used to work through a harmful incident, like a student hitting a classmate.

    • Similar to Restorative Justice

      • Requests that the student who did the harm be willing to repair it.

      • The class talks about how they feel about the incident and the student who did the harm explains why they did it.

    • Can be emotional and difficult, but ultimately leads to everyone feeling heard and being able to move past the incident.

  • Circles for class subjects

    • Allows students to work together and ask questions of each other.

    • Build comradery and trust with fellow students, the teacher, and the process.

    • Have been shown to increase grades and test scores.


Northwest Mediation Center is working to bring more restorative practices to Spokane schools.  We are also bringing restorative practices to all areas of our work. We hope to build community circles throughout our service counties and work with a diverse population to bring our mission of peaceful problem solving to Spokane and surrounding areas.

bottom of page