Restorative Justice Program Examples:
Programs use trained mediators to bring victims and their offenders together in order to discuss the crime, its aftermath, and the steps needed to make things right
Circles are similar to victim-offender mediation, but differ in that they involve not only the offender and victim, but also their family members, community members, and government representatives.
Conferencing programs are also similar to victim-offender mediation, but have tended to more closely linked to the criminal justice system than either VOM or circles.
Brings together groups of unrelated victims and offenders, linked by a common kind of crime but not by the particular crimes that have involved the others.
Victim assistance programs-
Provide services to crime victims as they recover from the crime and proceed through the criminal justice processes.
Programs provide services to offenders while they are in prison and on their release.
(Centre for Justice & Reconciliation 2015)
The restorative justice process differs by situation and community and is not specific to one group or crime. Understanding the appropriate healing process depends on the individual (or group) being affected as well as their needs. It is important to realize that there is no single model that restorative justice follows, and that each case will vary in situation and characteristics. With that being said, the impacts of restorative justice vary depending on the history of crime of the offenders involved (Woods, 2009). “Various factors are common correlates of, or risk factors for, crime and delinquency, it is important for those interested in the effectiveness of RJ programming to understand whether these factors moderate the impact of the intervention” (Bergseth and Bouffard, 2013).
Restorative Justice offers many models for many crimes. For those in the juvenile justice system, Restorative Justice programs respond to crime in collaborative efforts to offer appropriate resolutions. “Applications of restorative principles and practices may provide a useful framework to meet the needs of youthful offenders by holding them accountable in respectful ways that may develop a sense of shame and heightened empathy” (Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal, 2011 pg. 352). Restorative Justice in juvenile centers provides a path that leads away from future convictions and perpetrations. Provided the research and evidence, Restorative justice methods work well with offenders from many backgrounds, ages, sexes, and abilities. Placing the importance of restorative justice into place with prevention methods, especially with our youth offenders, could redefine responses to crime and much more.
Restorative justice is often associated with the criminal justice system but has shown success in educational institutions, and has proven to be very effective when looking at resolving issues of juvenile delinquency. “In many school districts across the United States, children are more likely to be arrested at school than they were a generation ago, and the number of students suspended from school each year has nearly doubled from 1.7 million in 1974 to 3.1 million in 2000” (Thalia, 2002). “In schools that use restorative and accountable discipline and student support, students take an active role. Discipline is not externally imposed. Instead, students engage in inquiry and have a voice in determining next steps and consequences in a context of support, strong relationships and effective communication” (Davidson 2014). In educational institutions there are practices such as zero tolerance policies that stem from the same form of punishments that our legal system implements. When these issues are solved with intolerance and punishment, students become disconnected from the school community and are at risk for entering the juvenile justice system, thus creating a school to prison pipeline. Students of color, particularly African American students, have been disproportionately impacted by practices of zero tolerance (OUSD 2014). The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) has implemented school-based restorative justice programs in 2005 that are tailored to community building in schools and using alternative measures to suspension and expulsion. Students are participating in restorative circles that aim to maintain positive relationships with peers and teachers. These circles create a culture in the school place that is sensitive to the needs of student relationships and empowerment of student voice. These OUSD programs bring not only students and teachers together but also involve parents in the process and also provide training. Results of these programs being implemented show success in reducing harm, building community, and re-integrating marginalized students that are coming from the juvenile justice system.
Research questions that RJ asks:
Who has been hurt? What are their needs? Whose obligations are these? Who has a stake in this situation? What is the appropriate process to involve stakeholders in an effort to put things right?