SAN DIEGO — A new Master’s program is coming to the University of San Diego that will be the first of its kind in California.

A graduate program in restorative justice — called the Master of Arts Restorative Justice Facilitation and Leadership — is set to be launched within the university’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences in the fall 2024 semester.

The 17-month program will be one of only four that center the alternative criminal justice approach across the U.S.

As opposed to the traditional punitive approach, restorative justice uses a collaborative method to address harmful incidents, seeking to examine its impact and then determine what can be done to repair it while also holding the person who caused it accountable for their actions.

“Restorative justice is a much needed approach to harm and conflict in our highly divided society,” said Dr. David Karp, director of the USD Center for Restorative Justice in the School of Leadership and Education Sciences. “It is an emerging global movement that embraces personal and community empowerment, collaboration, and personal accountability to address harm and strengthen relationships.”

The method has been applied to a wide variety of sectors, including the criminal justice system and education.

When it comes to the criminal justice sector, several restorative justice models have been shown to better meet the needs of victims, reduce recidivism and minimize the social and monetary costs of crime.

In schools, restorative justice has been used as a means of reducing suspension rates while improving academic achievement, student behavior and campus safety.

According to USD officials, the program will consist of seven online classes, two one-week classes on campus and one travel seminar.

Through these courses, students in the new program will gain in-depth knowledge and skills needed to facilitate restorative justice processes for responding to harmful incidents while also helping communities heal, USD said.

By graduation, USD says students will be able to enter leadership roles in a wide variety of settings, including in education, non-profit organizations and criminal justice agencies.

According to the university, it is currently recruiting students for the first cohort, which is set to begin classes in Fall 2024.