“Restorative Justice is a process whereby the parties with a stake in the particular offense come together to resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of the offense and its implications for the future” – Tony Marshall, advocate, restorativejustice.org
Restorative justice, when navigated properly and with devoted time to the conflict and insight into the roots of the problem can be influential in the healing process and can lead to restitution for the victim, and progression with community support. It is not just a slap on the wrist approach, as argued by some critics. Restorative Justice Circles can be rough and intimidating at first especially for the victim, but what comes out of it is transformative, in the sense that, when the needs of all people involved: community, victim, and offender are addressed and discussed, then eventually goals are created to meet those needs with a corresponding effort to commence restitution for the initial harmful act. Goals might also be made to make sure that these offenses happen less often or hopefully never again with community outreach. Many positive things can come out of restorative practices, especially finding some root causes to crime and delinquency among youth.
The practice of restorative justice has been recently implemented in judicial processes and community mediation since the 1990s as an effective process in dealing with a range of conflicts. It has proven to be effective in Rio de Janeiro in dealing with extremely violent conflicts involving gangs through the work of Dominic Barter, and also in schools dealing with violence, and other smaller conflicts such as bullying. Its concepts date back to pre colonial times with many indigenous cultures such as Native Americans and Aboriginals of Australia, however the traditional approach to crime has dominated the judicial system in the U.S. Studies are showing that the traditional approach of jail and harsh punishment (retribution) may be more harmful and costly to society. Restorative justice is a tool in the effort to strengthen communities and human relationships first and foremost, and also to reduce incarceration and recidivism. We at la Plata Youth Services are now offering restorative justice circles as one of our many services to strengthen the well being of our youth and our community as a whole.
Our process looks like this:
1. Initial meeting with the youth offender discussing what happened.
2. Second meeting involving youth offender and their parents; how should we navigate restitution
3. Meeting with the parents only
4. Full restorative justice circle encompassing offender, parents, victim, community, law enforcement (if involved).
For more information on Restorative Justice practices here are some links: