Restorative Justice Policy and Legislation

legislationThe NACRJ Policy and Legislation webpage contains current and relevant national and state legislation, practices, and victims’ services relating to community and restorative justice. If you have any new information to be included in this section of the website, please forward it to Dr. Sandra Pavelka, Chair of the NACRJ Legislation and Policy Committee, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NACRJ is thankful for the ongoing work of Dr. Pavelka to keep us current on new developments in the area of RJ legislation at federal and state levels. A significant benefit to this service is that stakeholders can draw from each other’s experiences, initiatives, and language. 


The History of RJ Legislation in the United States


The Status of RJ Legislation in the United States


The Balanced Approach launched a national movement in juvenile justice reform in the 1990s, starting a long journey that is more evolution than revolution. It provided the operational structure for mainstream implementation of restorative justice philosophies. The Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ) model, in turn, has been adopted as the legislatively mandated juvenile justice purpose clause in over half the states. Several states engaged in systematic statewide initiatives to implement policies and programs that reflect the BARJ mission. Many local jurisdictions across the nation strategically embrace BARJ in their mission statements and conduct their operations with an eye toward specifically meeting BARJ goals. The BARJ model opened the door to develop and implement a broad variety of non-traditional programs and interventions designed to enhance youth accountability while supporting competency development and maintaining community safety.

Most states have a legislatively mandated purpose clause that defines their philosophical and strategic approach to youth criminal behavior or delinquency. A survey of state juvenile justice purpose clauses conducted by the National Center for Juvenile Justice identified four primary philosophical approaches to addressing juvenile justice, including: parens patriae, due process, the developmental approach, and BARJ.  NCJJ’s survey confirmed earlier findings by Pavelka that BARJ is the most prevalent legislatively articulated juvenile justice mission with 29 states embracing BARJ in their purpose clauses. 

State Statutes or Codes Incorporating Restorative Justice

Map of the USA

Map Key

Restorative Justice (RJ)


Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ)


Balanced Approach (BA)


Not Applicable (NA)


Read Sandra Pavelka’s complete article on this topic:

“Restorative Justice in the States: A National Assessment of Legislation and Policy” 

Justice Policy Journal, Fall 2016, 13(2) 

Direct PDF for the status of legislation in all states in the USA


The Case of Colorado

Read more about how Colorado has pioneered the

way forward with robust initiatives to implement

restorative justice legislation statewide.


Restorative Justice Policy and Legislation Weblinks 

Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice

California Sentencing Institute

Can Restorative Justice Halt the School to Prison Pipeline

National Center on Juvenile Justice

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

Restorative Justice Colorado

Restorative Justice Legislation Colorado


About Dr. Sandra Pavelka

Dr. Sandra Pavelka serves as Director of Institute of Youth and Justice Studies and Professor of Political Science and Public Administration at Florida Gulf Coast University. Dr. Pavelka received her Ph.D. in Public Administration with a specialization in Justice Policy from Florida Atlantic University. Her dissertation, Practice to Policy to Management: A Restorative Justice Framework, focused on system reform and policy implementation of restorative justice nationally. She holds a Master of Public Administration from Florida International University and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Florida.

Dr. Pavelka has also directed grants and contracts funded by the federal and state governments, local entities, and private foundations. She served as Project Administrator of the Balanced and Restorative Justice Project funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, US Department of Justice. Currently, she is the Principal Evaluator of the Ft. Myers Reentry Initiative funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, US Department of Justice. 

Dr. Pavelka is an internationally known restorative justice expert. She serves on the National Association of Community and Restorative Justice Advisory Council and is Chair of the Law and Policy Committee. She has published extensively in the restorative and juvenile justice disciplines and has provided consultation, training and technical assistance with legislators, policymakers, justice system and educational stakeholders, victim advocates, nonprofit and community organizations in the development and implementation of restorative justice principles, practices, legislation, policies and evaluation. 

Dr. Sandra Pavelka

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.