The Restorative Impulse


Half Surrender by Kinnari Sutariya. Acrylic. Credit: Prison Creative Arts Project.

I believe that the restorative justice movement is a manifestation of something much larger than itself: a fundamental shift in how Western culture understands the nature of our species and the nature of the universe.

Assumptions about human nature and the universe underlie all our social institutions and all of our relationships—with self, with others, with the natural world. These assumptions shape the actions we take each day in the context of institutions such as our families, faith communities, neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, social services, and justice systems.

My friend Howard Vogel, who teaches at Hamline Law School, talks about the “restorative impulse.” This term may be more helpful than the term “restorative justice.” As my work has evolved, the scope and depth of change required for a shift toward a restorative impulse in all situations seems greater and greater. Restorative justice was never about crime for me. It was always about community and how we live with one another. However, I did not understand at the beginning how much we had to change our worldview to shift how we respond to things that go wrong.

It has taken years for some of that worldview shift to seep into my understanding—and I am deeply grateful to Native American and First Nations teachers, especially Mark Wedge, Harold Gatensby, and Yako Tahnahga, as well as Pema Chodron from the Buddhist tradition, for opening my heart and mind to other ways of relating to the universe. And I am very grateful to modern physics and biology for helping me understand how we can integrate those spiritual understandings with modern society. ...

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Kay Pranis is an independent trainer in restorative justice and peacemaking circles. She was formerly the restorative justice planner for the Minnesota Department of Corrections. She has co-authored several books on circles.

Source Citation

Pranis, Kay. 2012. The Restorative Impulse. Tikkun 27(1): 33.

tags: Justice & Prisons, Spirituality, Spiritual Politics   
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