Course: Restorative Justice
Syllabus: Spring 2009
Restorative Justice is a graduate-level course offered in the School of Social Work and cross listed in the School of Law at the University of Texas at Austin. This 45-credit intensive weekend course is held on Friday nights and Saturdays for five consecutive weeks. The structure allows time for an uninterrupted learning process, field trips, and the extensive use of community members for panels and guest lecturers. The class alternates between a classroom format for instructor lectures and videos and a circle format for discussion, panelists and guest speakers. The purpose of the circle format is to convey experientially the climate necessary for restorative dialogue including respect for difference and deep and heartfelt listening.
The course schedule moves from a general introduction and orientation to restorative justice through understanding the positions of victim and offender to a review of programs in Texas that use humanistic mediation and emerging applications and concludes with the application of restorative justice to international conflicts. This course also offers an overview of the outcome research on restorative justice and its future directions. Interspersed in the schedule are student group presentations that serve to expand the instructor’s lectures or demonstrate additional applications of restorative justice to crime and social problems.
Course evaluations are high ranging from 4.4 to 5.0 on a 5-point scale. Students have made the following comments:
“Having the course compressed into a five-week period combined with the content made it a very deeply emotional and intense experience. Because of this, I felt like I was living a restorative justice experience.”
“It was scary in the sense that I understood how much pain I would feel if I were a victim (or secondary victim) of violent crime. That was a dose of reality for which I was not ready. It also messed with my notions of what an offender is and what a victim is – I see offenders very differently now.”
“I was surprised by the great mix of people in the course.. I wish more students from other departments would take this course, such as LBJ (public policy), psychology, and education. I am curious about their perspective on the subject.”