Restorative Justice for Washtenaw County 

Mission Statement:

“To pursue a balanced and restorative approach to crime and conflict that promotes justice, reparation, and resolution for victims and the community, while also addressing accountability, personal development, and reintegration of the offender into productive community life, with respectful treatment for all involved parties.”


To raise community awareness of restorative justice, particularly Victim-Offender Conferencing (VOC), and strengthen public safety through community building.

To invite community participation in the justice process, with VOC as a new community practice seeking to repair the harm caused by youth crime and restore relationships affected by such crime.

To provide VOC for those directly affected by youth crime: the victim(s), the offender(s), their families, and the representatives of the affected communities.

To develop an array of other restorative justice models to serve different offender groups in the future.




Friends of Restorative Justice (FORJ) is a group of people from Washtenaw County and surrounding areas who are working together to bring restorative justice to our community.  We come from different backgrounds but all have a desire to change our punitive justice system to a more restorative system.

FORJ had its beginning with a few people back in 2013 who wanted to introduce a form of restorative justice called Victim Offender Conferencing to the juvenile court system.  This small group of 7 reached out to Healing Communities, a local organization whose goal is prison reform, and together we formed Friends of Restorative Justice.

Through our community events we are becoming widely known in Washtenaw County.  Some of our work towards restorative justice is:

  • Giving Prosecutor Presentations about the role and power of prosecuting attorneys
  • Being involved in presentations of Tough Case – a play about restorative justice.
  • Working with the Dispute Resolution Center as volunteer mediators.
  • Court watching in Washtenaw County courtrooms
  • Peacemaking Court  participants
  • Meeting with juvenile court administrators
  • Peacemaking circle facilitators
  • Sponsors of restorative justice films at the Michigan Theater
  • Meetings with local commissioners, sheriff, judges
  • Hosting Event speakers: Danielle Sered, Fred Van Liew, Dennis Schranz, Kate Kesteloot Scarbrough

What is restorative justice?

According to Howard Zehr, a pioneer of this modern concept, restorative justice differs from traditional criminal justice in terms of the guiding questions it asks.  In restorative justice, the questions are:

  1. Who has been hurt?
  2. What are their needs?
  3. What are the causes?
  4. Who has a stake in the situation?
  5. What is the appropriate process to involve stakeholders in an effort to address causes and put things right? [1]

In contrast, traditional criminal justice asks:

  1. What laws have been broken?
  2. Who did it?
  3. What do the offender(s) deserve?[2]

Three central concepts provide the foundation for restorative justice philosophy and practice.  They are:

  1. Crime is a violation of people and of interpersonal relationships.
  2. Violations create obligations.
  3. The central obligation is to put right the wrongs.

These assumptions lead to three basic principles:

  1. allows for focus on harms rather than the rules or laws that were broken.
  2. Wrongs or harms result in obligations.
  3. Restorative justice promotes engagement or participation, including those harmed, those who have harmed, and involved members of the community.

These principles suggest using the following value statements to guide the process:

  1. All people should be treated with dignity and respect, recognizing that each person has some piece of the truth.
  2. Each of us needs to be responsible for our own actions and needs to be held accountable for those actions.
  3.  By our presence we are all members of communities and therefore connected to each other.
  4. We provide opportunities for reconciliation as appropriate and as defined by those affected by the actions of others.  [from the Office of Justice & Peacebuilding at Mennonite Central Committee]



[1] Zehr, Howard. Changing Lenses – A New Focus for Crime and Justice. Scottdale PA: 2005 (3rd ed), 271.

[2] Zehr, Howard. The Little Book of Restorative Justice, Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 2002.

Meeting information

Friends of Restorative Justice (FORJ) usually meets the 1st Tuesday of each month from 7-8:45PM at First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor, 4001 Ann Arbor-Saline Rd, Ann Arbor, MI 48103.  For more information please e-mail us at:  voc4change@gmail.com