In the fall of 2019, the Detroit Justice Center undertook a national and local ecosystem assessment of Restorative Justice (RJ) programs and practitioners who are using RJ as a means to building alternative models of justice and accountability that is responsive to the needs of survivors and functions to reduce future harm. An emergent theme across conversations with Detroit-area practitioners was a desire to advance RJ across local sectors. DJC and our partners recognized that the sustainable advancement of RJ necessitates strong organizing via the centralizing of local resources. To this end, the vision for the Metro Detroit Restorative Justice Network (MDRJN) was conceived. The MDRJN is therefore a special project of the Just Cities Lab at the Detroit Justice Center. Learn more about their work on their website here and contact them here:


The Metro Detroit Restorative Justice Network (MDRJN) is a multi-sector network of practitioners, advocates, and community members seeking to increase support for, and access to, a sustainable restorative justice infrastructure as one avenue for systemic alternatives to punitive justice.

Conventional approaches to harm have historically centered the will and interest of system actors (i.e., law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, etc.) over the needs of those directly impacted by the harming event. Accordingly, punitive responses to harm, therefore, fail to facilitate meaningful accountability informed by the expressed needs of those involved. The systemic and persistent denial of person-centered justice processes results in the perpetuation of harm and disrupts the advancement of healing.

Operating from this understanding, the MDRJN recognizes Restorative Justice and Restorative Practices as a viable alternative to punitive justice. Restorative Justice centers the needs of the directly impacted and attempts to honors those needs accordingly. Thus, the MDRJN promotes a vision of holistic, person-centered justice, which is recognized as one of many necessary operable alternatives to retributive justice and a path towards preventing future harm.

What is Restorative Justice?

Restorative justice is “consonant with African and other Indigenous communitarian values, restorative justice (RJ) is profoundly relational and emphasizes bringing together everyone affected by wrongdoing to address needs and responsibilities and to heal the harm to relationships and community, to the degree possible. While often mistakenly considered only a reactive response to harm, restorative justice is also a proactive relational strategy to create a culture of connectivity where all members of a community thrive.”

Restorative justice sees “crime” as broken lives and justice as healing…Parties enter into the justice process, together focused on accountability and the common central question: how do we heal and transform relationships and structures in the wake of harm? To the degree possible, restorative justice seeks a healing for all versus a victory for one.

This process usually occurs through a three-fold collaborative and dialogical process: (1) storytelling and relationship building, (2) truth-telling and accountability, and (3) reparative action. Even when both parties do not meet face-to-face, the restorative justice process seeks to achieve these three elements.

Restorative justice seeks to elevate the voice of survivors, families, communities, and responsible parties in ways that rarely occur in the adversarial context and, in doing so, aspires toward greater community self-governance by bringing together all members impacted by wrongdoing to identify harm, assess needs, meet responsibilities, and heal and repair harm to the degree possible.

Ultimately, restorative justice signifies the dawning of a new justice, a Bright sun, that transcends the punitive and narrow assumptions of prevailing justice and offers a broader view of justice inspired by Indigenous values. That is, a new but old justice that is healing, relational, community-based, inclusivist, participatory, needs-and accountability-based, and forward looking”

— Fania E. Davis, Race and Restorative Justice

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