Restorative Justice and the Problem of Trauma in Youth Offenders

William Wood


In this paper, I explore the lack of attention to trauma in restorative justice (RJ) research and literature. I focus in particular on complex trauma in youth offending populations. I argue the lack of attention to trauma-informed research and practice presents significant challenges for RJ in several ways. These include 1) problems with the impact of offender trauma on the restorative process, 2) potentially negative effects of RJ interventions on offenders with serious or complex trauma; 3) problems in the assumptions of reintegration for offenders with trauma, particularly as these relate to the concept of “communities of care,” within RJ; and 4) the problems or challenges of “historical trauma” for RJ practices. I conclude with consideration of whether RJ is appropriate for youth offenders with histories of serious trauma, and discussion of ways that RJ practices might benefit from attention to trauma-informed research and practices.


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