Restorative Justice for Juveniles

Restorative justice is a victim-centered approach to crime that emphasizes input from impacted parties and repairing harm. Unlike traditional law enforcement models that focus on what laws have been broken and what punishment will be imposed, restorative justice addresses who has been hurt, what their needs are and whose obligation it is to meet those needs. The restorative justice process fosters collaboration and consensus among all stakeholders (offenders, victims, communities, law enforcement agencies, schools and family systems). Research suggests that restorative justice promotes a sense of empowerment and healing among victims and communities who often feel detached from and disappointed in more traditional justice models and reduces re-offense rates.

As utilized within the Diversion Counseling Program in Colorado’s 18th Judicial District, the process allows first-time juvenile offenders to be accountable directly to those who were most impacted by their negative choices and provides a space for them to more thoroughly hear and understand the breadth and depth of that impact. DCP introduced restorative justice circles in 2006 as a response to offenses ranging from theft and criminal mischief to arson and trespassing. Circles honor the principles of shared responsibility, engagement and dignity and promote “The Five R’s” of restorative justice: relationship, respect, responsibility, repair and reintegration. The process involves three phases: accountability; impact, empathy and insight; and amends, achieved through an agreement among all circle participants about appropriate and meaningful repair.

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