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Restorative justice originates from spiritual and indigenous traditions that identify justice holistically as promoting the worth, well-being, and interconnectedness of all people. This Relationships First perspective is primarily about living justly, proactively creating and nurturing healthy relational communities where people commit to interacting in a manner that upholds the dignity of all (Vaandering, 2011).
In traditional indigenous cultures around the world – from Africa to New Zealand to North America – restorative justice was and continues to be a customary approach for addressing community issues. The contemporary Western expression of restorative justice began in judicial contexts in the 1970s in Elmira, Ontario as well as in Akron, Pennsylvania, communities with large Mennonite populations. These efforts were attempts to apply faith and peace perspectives to criminal justice. However, this modern incarnation of Restorative Justice owes, as Zehr (2015) says, “a special debt to the Native people of North America and New Zealand” (p. 11)
In the late 1990’s restorative justice was introduced to schools where its relational foundation became evident. In these contexts, restorative justice expanded from primarily being a means for addressing harm to explicitly nurturing, maintaining and repairing relationships. As such, a shift from being rule-based to relationship-based is encouraged.