Restorative Justice is a community response to crime that focuses on addressing the harms done to victims and communities by holding offenders meaningfully accountable for their offenses. The goal of Restorative Justice is the creation of safe, healthy communities. Such communities are created when there are opportunities for victims to have their needs addressed and when offenders are integrated into the community as positive, contributing citizens.
Following are examples of restorative practices that have been implemented by communities and juvenile departments in Oregon and Washington. These informational pieces are intended to give a brief summary of the practice.
VICTIM OFFENDER MEDIATION/MEETING (VOM) VOM is a facilitated face-to-face meeting between a crime victim and offender. The mediator/facilitator of the meeting is a professionally trained community volunteer, dispute resolution center or justice system staff person. The focus of the meeting is to provide a restorative conversation between the victim and offender to accomplish the following: for the offender to take direct personal responsibility for the harm caused by the crime; for the victim to be able to share any thoughts or concerns about the impact of the crime; for the victim to ask any questions that are important to them, and to hear the answers to those questions directly from the offender. The outcome sought is a fair and reasonable resolution that enables victims to move forward with their lives feeling the crime has been dealt with in a way that addresses their needs, and for the offender to take meaningful responsibility for their actions in ways that encourage and strengthen their ability to be positive, contributing members of the community. Both of these outcomes build and strengthen the safety and well-being of the community. (Clark County Juvenile Court; Deschutes County Juvenile Community Justice; Resolutions Northwest; Clackamas County Juvenile Department; Peninsula Dispute Resolution Center)
RESTORATIVE COMMUNITY SERVICE (RCS) RCS re-shapes the purpose and practice of community service to achieve three restorative goals: accountability, integration, and change. A restorative focus for community service brings an intentional effort to strengthen the social fabric of the community through offenders taking active and meaningful responsibility for the harm caused by their actions, and through engaging the community in working side-by-side with these offenders. Through this direct participation the community to play a key role in providing opportunities for offenders to be integrated into the fabric of the community as positive citizens. Change takes place in young offenders through helping them see themselves as valuable, contributing members of the community. Change takes place for the community as it sees young offenders as individuals who are capable of making a positive contribution to the community. And finally, RCS helps the community see itself as having a critical role in creating safety and well-being by integrating offenders back into the community. (Clark County Juvenile Court; Deschutes County Juvenile Community Justice; Clackamas County Juvenile Department)
RESTORATIVE COMMUNITY ACCOUNTABILITY BOARDS (CAB) Restorative Community Accountability Boards: CABs are a community-based option available for cases that are eligible for being resolved outside of the formal court process. CAB boards are generally comprised of several trained community volunteers who meet with a youth and the parents/guardians for a one-time one hour meeting. In the CAB meeting the youth is encouraged to speak openly and honestly about their actions, to reflect on how their actions have impacted others (victims, the community, their family, themselves), and to take a personal role in determining what they need to do to be accountable for their actions. CAB members have the opportunity to share with the youth and parents the community's view of the offense and how the community has been impacted. CAB members represent community interests and ensure that legitimate victim and community issues are addressed. CAB's with a restorative focus provide an opportunity for members of a offender's own community to focus on the connection between the youth's behavior and the harmful effects on other people in the community. The CAB process can also provide the offender with the opportunity to actively participate in determining how they can best be held accountable for their actions and work toward making amends to those who have been harmed. Through this community process the Restorative Justice goals of meaningful accountability and the integration of the offender into the community as positive community members can be achieved. (Deschutes County Juvenile Community Justice; Clark County Juvenile Court; Clackamas County Juvenile Department)
DIVERSION/FORMAL ACCOUNTABILITY AGREEMENTS This is a juvenile justice system alternative process to having a criminal charge dealt with by prosecution in court. This practice can vary in detail in different jurisdictions. Generally it is offered to youth who have committed a first time offense, or a non-felony offense. Youth meet with juvenile department staff, are advised of their rights, and if they decide to accept this alternative process, waive their right to a lawyer and agree to fulfill specific obligations to address the harms done by their offense. While there is a clear legal, due process dynamic to this alternative, when shaped by Restorative Justice values, the focus of the process moves to having the youth identify what harm they have done, who has been harmed by their actions, and what steps need to be taken to make amends. The conditions/obligations of the diversion/formal accountability agreement are framed around those three “harm” questions. The goal is for the youth to take meaningful responsibility for the harm done, to grow and learn from the experience, and to move on as a safer, more responsible member of the community. (Clackamas County Juvenile Department; Deschutes County Juvenile Community Justice; Clark County Juvenile Court)
RESTORATIVE JUSTICE IN SCHOOLS INITIATIVE The primary goals of Restorative Practices in the Schools are to:
Reduce the number of referrals from schools to Juvenile Justice
Reduce the number of referrals which result in either suspension or expulsion, particularly for students of color
Hold youth accountable for behaviors warranting disciplinary attention
Avoid escalation of conflict and at the same time keep youth engaged in and attending school
This work provides an opportunity for students to participate in a restorative facilitated conversation to discuss the harms that have occurred and to whom, the impact of those harms, how to repair the harms and how to prevent them from happening again. If students participate in the project and are able to work out an agreement, they may avoid either in-school or out-of-school suspension days.
VICTIM EMPATHY/OFFENDER COMPETENCY CLASSES In line with restorative values and outcomes, these classes focus on helping youth better understand the choices they make, how their choices can cause harm to other people, and their personal obligation to take responsibility for that harm and to make amends where possible. Content areas can include developing an understanding of the thinking processes they used that helped them make the choices that caused harm, and how to develop skills in avoiding those “thinking errors”; recognizing who has been impacted by their offense and how they were harmed; exploring different options for how they can take concrete steps to make amends for the harm done; and finally identifying alternative activities they can healthfully participate in that will help them avoid future criminal behavior.
DETENTION PROGRAMS WITH RESTORATIVE FOCUS While detention itself is not often seen as a restorative response to crime, the reality is that while youth are in this restricted, structured setting there are many opportunities to engage youth in restorative conversations that reflect on their lives and choices, and to participate in programming that can create and foster pro-social, restorative thinking on the part of youth. Some options include: an intentional process set up to “team” a detention officer with the youth's probation counselor so the specific risk and protective factors that the probation counselor is seeking to address with the youth in the community can remain a conscious focus for the youth while they are in detention. Rather than “doing time” the youth can “make time count” by continuing to think about, discuss, and plan for how they are going to move forward with their restorative obligations to make amends and be a safe community member when they are released from detention. Group counseling and discussion groups also help focus attention and energy of youth in healthy ways, again to both reflect on how they have ended up in detention, and what steps they need to take upon release to not come back. There are also physical exercise games and activities that can help youth experience some of the restorative and pro-social concepts we want them to integrate. A key to implementing restorative approaches in a detention setting is creating a climate where staff desire to engage with youth beyond their role of “safety and security”.
VICTIM IMPACT PROGRAMS These programs were established to contact every identified victim of juvenile offenses. Over 1200 victims are pro-actively contacted by letter and phone for the restorative purpose of serving these individuals to the best of our ability. The content is based on what both research and experience has shown crime victims want from the justice system:
to be acknowledged as people of value that have been harmed;
to receive information about what is happening in the justice system regarding the offense committed against them;
to have the opportunity to have a “voice”, to share their story, how they have been impacted, and what justice would look like for them;
being given choices for how they can participate in the justice process, if they choose to do so. Our experience is that the vast majority of crime victims feel they have been well served simply by being contacted and engaged in this way. This program also enables our departments to more effectively have offenders focus on the harms they have done and what they need to do to make amends because we have actually talked to the victims. It enhances our ability to work with both offenders and victims in a restorative manner.
NW Justice Forum a collaborative effort of restorative justice practitioners across Idaho, Oregon and Washington