Capitol Ideas

CSG Knowledge Center

Research Services

MLC Policy Resolutions

Stateline Midwest



Question of the Month ~ December 2019


Q. Which Midwestern states have restorative justice programs in state law?

by Jon Davis ~ December 2019 ~ Question of the Month »
Restorative justice programs are gaining traction in the Midwest as a way to heal wounds caused by criminal actions, reconcile offenders and their victims, and keep some offenders from entering the criminal justice system.
Compared to traditional models of justice, restorative justice “seeks to balance the needs of the victim, offender and community by repairing the harm caused by delinquent acts,” according to “Restorative Justice in the States: An Analysis of Statutory Legislation and Policy.” (This study appeared in the fall 2016 edition of Justice Policy Journal, published by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.)
While restorative justice programs vary from state to state, they generally include holding juvenile offenders accountable for their offense, involving victims and the community in the justice process, obligating the offender to pay restitution to the victim and/or a victims’ fund, improving the juvenile’s ability to live more productively and responsibly in the community, and securing safer communities.
Shannon Sliva, an assistant professor in the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Social Work, tracks state laws and codes incorporating ideas of restorative justice. She designates the level of state support for restorative justice by tracking the number of laws supporting its use by name.
By her measure, all Midwestern states except Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota support restorative justice: Minnesota is the only high-support state (nine citations); Illinois (three), Indiana (five), Nebraska (six) and Ohio (six) are moderate; Kansas (one), Michigan (one), and Wisconsin (two) are low.
Iowa’s Department of Corrections has a restorative justice option among its victim services, however, and some counties operate “victim-offender reconciliation programs.”
Michigan incorporates restorative justice into its K-12 school policy: HB 561 became law in December 2016, allowing school districts to depart from “zero-tolerance” discipline. It requires school boards to consider using “restorative practices” instead of suspensions or expulsions, and describes those practices in restorative justice language.


Question of the Month highlights an inquiry sent to the CSG Midwest Information Help Line.