Magazine article Corrections Today

Restorative Justice for Young Offenders and Their Victims. (Juvenile Justice News)

Magazine article Corrections Today

Restorative Justice for Young Offenders and Their Victims. (Juvenile Justice News)

Article excerpt

"Treatment and punishment standing alone are not capable of meeting the intertwined needs of the community victim, offender and family."--Mission statement of the Pinal County Department of Juvenile Court Services in Florence, Ariz.

As the juvenile justice system and juvenile corrections professionals seek new approaches that focus on prevention, early intervention and a greater emphasis on victims' needs, a new framework has emerged. This framework seeks to balance the rights and interests of young offenders, their victims and the community, and engage all three groups as clients of juvenile justice services and as resources in a more effective response to youth crime. Restorative justice, the guiding philosophical foundation for this new, more balanced vision, promotes juvenile justice interventions that focus on basic community needs and expectations. Communities expect justice systems to improve public safety, sanction juvenile crime, and habilitate and reintegrate offenders. True balance is achieved when juvenile justice professionals consider all three of these needs and goals in each case and when a juvenile justice system allocates its resources equally to meet each need.

The principles of restorative justice evoke a substantial shift from America's traditionally retributive approach to justice. Initially offered as a philosophy for justice and fairness, restorative justice has taken on many important practical applications during the past decade. Unlike America's framework for juvenile justice, restorative justice is not a system or a network of agencies. Rather, restorative justice is based upon a shared set of values that determines how conflicts can be resolved and how damaged relationships can be repaired or improved. This value-based approach to justice can cause confusion in justice professions that have traditionally been based on structures and agencies. However, the ultimate goal of restorative justice is to infuse its shared values and practical applications into America's traditional approaches to juvenile justice.

Restorative Justice Values

At a 1996 national restorative justice teleconference sponsored by the National Institute of Corrections, a panel of experts identified seven core values of restorative justice:

* Crime is an offense against human relationships;

* Victims and the community are central to justice processes;

* The first priority of justice processes is to assist victims;

* The second priority of justice processes is to restore the community, to the degree possible;

* The offender has a personal responsibility to victims and to the community for crimes committed;

* The offender will develop improved competency and understanding as a result of the restorative justice experience; and

* Stakeholders share responsibilities for restorative justice through partnerships for action.

In developing programs based on restorative justice, these underlying principles should form the foundation for planning, implementation and evaluation.

Legislation and Public Policy

In a nationwide survey to determine states' juvenile justice laws, pollicies and programs based on the values and principles of restorative justice and the Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ) models, the BARJ project at Florida Atlantic University found that:

* Nineteen states have adopted restorative justice statutes;

* Twenty states articulate restorative justice in agency policies;

* Thirty-two states articulate restorative justice in agency mission statements;

* Thirty-six states incorporate restorative justice into program plans;

* Thirteen states have developed evaluation/outcome measures for restorative justice programs and activities; and

* Thirty-three states articulate restorative justice principles in multiple documents.

The 19 states that have restorative juvenile justice statutes are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia and Washington. …

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