What is Restorative Justice?

Maisha Winn
Maisha T. Winn, a professor in the UC Davis School of Education, is co-director of its Transformative Justice in Education Center. (Courtesy photo)

UC Davis Professor Brings Restorative Justice to K-12

Maisha T. Winn is the daughter of African American studies scholar James Fisher, who taught at UC Davis from 1969 to 1974. With a father working at a university, she fondly remembers trips she and her brother took as children to the UC Davis Arboretum and library and their exposure to higher education. 

“Some children grow up playing in parks,” said Winn, Chancellor’s Leadership Professor in the UC Davis School of Education and co-director of its Transformative Justice in Education Center.

“Colleges and universities were our playground.” 

But she also knew other children, especially children of color, did not have the same opportunities to hang out on college campuses. In her work now, Winn works to improve education and life opportunities for all children. She does this through her center, which focuses on teaching teachers and administrators in the K-12 rule how to shift the conversation.

‘Wrongdoing put right’

In her latest book, which closely mirrors her philosophies, she says restorative justice represents “a paradigm shift in the way Americans conceptualize and administer punishment.  She is interested in moving the discussion “from a focus on crime to a focus on harm, including the needs of both those who were harmed and those who caused it.”

Says the publisher: her book, Justice on Both Sides, “provides an urgently needed, comprehensive account of the value of restorative justice and how contemporary schools can implement effective practices to address inequalities associated with race, class, and gender.”

Research on understudied settings: from bookstores to juvenile detention

Winn’s research spans a variety of understudied settings — her early work on literacy practices in bookstores and organizations in the African American community; work in institutions where adolescent girls are incarcerated; and the connections among juvenile justice attorneys and school-based practitioners of restorative justice.

“I am most proud of the work I have done to immerse myself in the lives and experiences of young people and their teachers in school and in out-of-school contexts,” said Winn. “I want to do bold work that asks seemingly impossible questions that we must begin to answer together: How do we teach in an era of criminalizing minoritized children and their families? How do we create classrooms and school communities where everyone has a sense of purpose and belonging? How do we teach in a way that people stop killing?”

A former K-12 teacher who holds a doctoral degree in language, literacy, and culture from UC Berkeley, she has authored eight books, including the influential Girl Time: Literacy, Justice, and School-to-Prison Pipeline (Teachers College Press, 2011). Her latest book is Justice on Both Sides: Transforming Education through Restorative Justice (Harvard Education Press, May 2018). 

Hear her speak about her recent book and its implications for schools, during a presentation at UC Davis, “Justice on Both Sides: Toward a Restorative Justice Discourse in Schools."


This blog piece is taken from this feature story in the College of Letters and Science alumni magazine, written by Donna Justice, director of marketing and communications, College of Letters and Science.

Related: Read Winn’s blog about restorative justice teacher preparation.

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