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Contemporary Origins of Restorative Justice Programming: The Minnesota Restitution Center

NCJ Number
Federal Probation Volume: 76 Issue: 2 Dated: September 2012 Pages: 49-55
Joe Hudson
Date Published
September 2012
7 pages
This article challenges "conventional wisdom" regarding the origin of restorative justice - that it originated in victim-offender meetings in Kitchener, Ontario (Canada) in 1974 - in presenting evidence that it originated in 1972 at the Minnesota Restitution Center (MRC).
This article describes the early history of the MRC, its restorative justice features, problems with implementation and research protocol, effects, and eventual transformation. Although the term "restorative justice" was not in common use when the MRC was established, its program clearly evidenced what later came to be promulgated as the core principles of restorative justice: repairing harm; stakeholder involvement; and transformation in community and government roles and relationships. The MRC used the concepts of Cohen, Eglash, and Schafer as it incorporated the concept of reparations by offenders to their victims as a central focus of a residential, community-based corrections program. Other important features of the program were its operation as a diversion from the Minnesota State Prison; its incorporation of a rigorous evaluation research design; and its staffing by men and women, many of them ex-offenders. Unfortunately, political considerations, changes in State legislation, and design and implementation failures combined to transform the program and lead to its demise. Still, the MRC is significant due to its initiation of restorative justice concepts, its serving as a model for the numerous restorative justice programs that followed, and the critical role played by David Fogel, whose leadership as commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Corrections spawned the original idea for the MRC. Further, it encourages other corrections leaders to take the risks of innovation, knowing that the seeds of reform may be planted, appear to die, but then emerge years later as a model for policy and practice. 28 references