Madison students using restorative justice to resolve conflicts On a recent Friday morning at Madison’s O’Keeffe Middle School, nine students gathered in a circle to reflect on their experience. Some shared their happiest memories during the three years while others described challenges they faced. They also shared what their goals for high school were and where they see themselves in ten years.

“I enjoyed the fun field trips we had, it brought everyone together and made us closer,” one student said.

“In ten years I see myself at the UW-Madison or University of California in Berkeley,” said another.

The activity is called a restorative circle, an aspect of restorative justice programs. Actual restorative justice programs are closed to reporters, so O’Keeffe set up a mock circle to illustrate how they work. Students’ names were withheld to protect privacy.

Restorative justice is a popular practice nationally, if not globally, to resolve conflicts and repair harm caused by criminal behavior or wrongdoing. The practice has been implemented in jails, prisons and schools, including the Madison Metropolitan School District.

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