Date of Conferral



Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Human Services


Jim Castleberry


The rise in the number of Black, male, incarcerated, rural youth and the retributive juvenile justice system is a prominent problem in the United States, creating a revolving door for youth in conflict with the law. Restorative justice is an alternative approach that diverts youth from court and focus on rehabilitation, but lacks sufficient experiential evidence from those involved in the process to support broader implementation. The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of restorative justice arbitrators and the role they play in facilitating resolution of youth criminal charges in a rural setting in a southern U.S. state. The research question asked how restorative justice arbitrators perceive and explain their roles, and successes and failures of a restorative justice process with Black male rural youth. The theoretical framework for the study was Braithwaite's reintegrative shaming, which posits the significance of the immediate family and community in rehabilitation. In this multicase study, research data were collected from semistructured interviews of 4 rural restorative justice arbitrators and analyzed using content analysis. Themes that emerged from the analysis were: the key role of rural community involvement in holding youths accountable to victims for their actions, preventing youths from developing a criminal record, and redirecting youth away from incarceration and more toward the community wellbeing. These findings contribute to social change by informing those working with youth crime about implications for the field of restorative justice specifically related to the opportunity for communities to provide benefits not only for juvenile offenders but also for victims and the community as a whole.