Widely known as “the grandfather of restorative justice,” Zehr began as a practitioner and theorist in restorative justice in the late 1970s at the foundational stage of the field. Zehr continues in this third decade to deepen the principles of restorative justice and grow its practice worldwide. He has led hundreds of events in some 25 countries and 35 states, including trainings and consultations on restorative justice, victim-offender conferencing, judicial reform, and other criminal justice matters. His impact has been especially significant in the United States, Brazil, Japan, Jamaica, Northern Ireland, Britain, the Ukraine, and New Zealand, a country that has restructured its juvenile justice system into a family-focused, restorative approach.
A prolific writer and editor, speaker, educator, and photojournalist, Zehr actively mentors other leaders in the field. More than 1,000 people have taken Zehr-taught courses and intensive workshops in restorative justice, many of whom lead their own restorative justice-focused organizations, such as the Council for Restorative Justice at Georgia State University, the Youth Justice Initiative in Iowa, and Mediation Northern Ireland (a major contributor to peace in Northern Ireland).
Zehr was an early advocate of making the needs of victims central to the practice of restorative justice. A core theme in his work is respect for the dignity of all peoples.
In May, 2008, he was appointed to the Victims Advisory Group of the U.S. Sentencing Commission. He serves on various other advisory boards.