Restorative Justice

“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,

The practice of  restorative justice, in the Western World, has been implemented in judicial processes and community healing and restitution since the 1970’s as an effective process that works with a range of conflicts.  It gained popularity in part through the work of criminologist and professor at Australian National University John Braithwaite.  Aborigines in Australia developed the process as a way to deal with all conflict and community issues.  RJ concepts  date back to pre-colonial times with indigenous cultures all over the world; however the traditional Western approach to crime has dominated the judicial system in the U.S. Current studies are showing that Western Judicial philosophy, entailing  harsh punishment and retribution, may be more harmful and costly to society in certain cases. Many times victims are left out of court processes and are separated from the offender.

Our traditional judicial  system operates on the premise that a law was broken thus the offender must pay the state in the form of incarceration, fines, community service, etc.  The premise of RJ is that harm was done during an incident to people and therefore the reparation of that harm must involve all parties and focus on repairing harm of those negatively impacted by the other’s actions. RJ places emphasis on victim centered reparation versus state centered reparation.  Restorative justice is a practice that strengthens communities, gets offenders to acknowledge responsibility, and reduces conflict potential.

La Plata Youth Services is now offering Restorative Justice circles to strengthen the relationships of  our youth and our community by repairing harm from conflict situations.

Our process looks like this:

1. Pre-conference with offender and family members. This is a meeting to hear stories, establish ground rules and expectations of participants, and illustrate how the process will go and what roles people are playing in the circle.

2. Pre-conference with  victims and family members.

3. Pre-conference with third parties (community, police, others).

4. Consider if Restorative Justice is the proper rout for the case.  We will take into account the mindset of all parties for this step. If there is perceived danger of an ineffective and/or dangerous situation, we will ask that certain parties not participate or will cancel altogether.

5.Full restorative justice circle including the offender, families, victim, community, and law enforcement (if involved).

We have been working with many talented and experienced facilitators over the years and as a result, we are now able to provide parent-teen mediation services with a focus on repairing harm and coming to agreements on both sides. Often youth need a space and structure to be able to voice their needs, as do parents. The process for this service is similar to an RJ circle, though less people are involved.

Contracted Facilitators WANTED: La Plata Youth Services is looking for experienced restorative justice facilitators. This contracted position will entail facilitating pre-conferences and conferences for a total of $200.00 per case completion. All other prep and follow up work will be completed by the La Plata Youth Services Restorative Justice Coordinator.  There are some opportunities for training, including the Rethinking Substances model. If you have experience facilitating restorative justice circles and would like to have some extra income and opportunities to practice your skills, please do not hesitate to call Dillon Walls, Restorative Justice Coordinator at 970-385-4440 X18.

To volunteer or for more information on volunteer opportunities with the county Restorative Justice effort please click here

For a comprehensive view of the statistics on RJ success and effectiveness please visit any of these websites:

Mark Umbriet 1998 multi site study

For more information on Restorative Justice practices here are some links:

Restorative Justice Colorado

OJJDP Restorative Justice

RJ in Schools

Philosophy and International

For Community Conflicts