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Restorative Justice: A Judicial Affairs Policy for the 21st Century Student Affairs Professional


Crime and Punishment, a book about the real nature of punishment and prisons, as well as their downfalls. It is interesting to note however that even though this book was written in 1866, much of the world’s justice and prison systems still reflect an outdated model; Higher Education in the U.S is sadly no different when it comes to looking into many of the Judicial Affairs departments; these are also known as Student Conduct Offices to those institutions that are that much further behind the times.
Within Judicial Affairs, much like in Criminal Justice there are two schools of thought in respect to how to adjudicate policy/ legal violations by students:
1) Punitive– which can be simply summed up as punishing the perpetrator in such a fashion that punishment is not worth the benefit of violation.
2) Educational/ Learning Outcome Based– based off the basic philosophy of Higher Education in which the institution stands to educate the student; in this respect the institution will sanction the student to punishment that is not meant to be negative, but rather is to educate them in the matter of their violation so that their new knowledge will cause them to not reoffend.
For the better part of history, these have been the go-to methodologies for both Higher Education and Criminal Justice, with the pendulum of justice swinging from one extreme to the other as public’s opinion sways with the times and issues.
Not to fear though, much as with the rest of Higher Education, Judicial Affairs is also on the path to evolution; University of Colorado at Boulder can be viewed as the fish to first walk on land in this respect as it can be referred to the main proponent of Restorative Justice in Higher Education. I know what you are thinking, what is Restorative Justice, and why does it sound like a bad Fox show? The simple and at the same time complex answer to this question is that Restorative Justice is a reworking of our entire way of thinking about how crime and policy violations really should be adjudicated in regards t redefining the injured party and its role; this paradigm shift mainly calls for the crime/ policy violation to be between the perpetrator and the community/ actual injured party and not just the state/ institution i.e. Restorative Justice makes the perpetrator answer to those whom they actually wronged in an effort to restore the damage they did.draft_lens2352736module13212460photo_1230507471restorative_justice_umbrella_1
Now to many people, such a concept may sound a little like the eye for an eye mentality, and in some ways they would be right; Restorative Justice calls for the perpetrator to on several different levels, make things right again between themselves and the injured party. This newer concept has just really began to tap into its true potential, with the beginnings of having student perpetrators understand that their negative actions not only effect their fellow students, but at times even the community at large. It is by having the student understand that they are a part of the community and for better or worse, it is what they make of it; of course, for us Student Affairs professionals, we make sure to instill the notion that we want it to be for the better.