What is Restorative Justice Anyway?
Part 1: A Very Broad Overview
by Restorative Justice Program Coordinator Dianna Reichelt
You may be wondering what Restorative Justice is and how it even connects to JJAB and/or Los Alamos. We will get to that, eventually, but first, let’s talk framework and some theory. JJAB’s Restorative Justice Program works closely with Los Alamos Teen Court to try and help move youth who have caused some sort of harm off the risky paths they may be on, to the road of resiliency. It’s important to note that not every case is appropriate for Restorative Justice and not all individuals who have been diverted to the RJ program will participate. RJ (and JJAB) are completely voluntary services/programs so it is the hope that those who choose to participate will successfully see the process through.
A quick Google search of “What is Restorative Justice” yields the following result: A system of criminal justice which focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large. At its best, Restorative Justice (RJ) can be a powerful and transformative process for the person who caused harm while empowering that person, as well as the victim(s) and the community at large to move forward in a positive way. RJ focuses on agreement, mediation, and understanding rather than punitive measures and punishment.
The most important piece of Restorative Justice is for the person who has caused harm to accept responsibility - without accepting that one has caused harm to another (whether it be intentional or unintentional) there can be no reconciliation/rehabilitation. There is a significant difference between saying that one accepts responsibility and truly accepting responsibility for causing harm, and as a Restorative Justice Facilitator, it is the individuals who can truly identify what “went wrong” in their decisions that have the most meaningful journeys through the restorative process.
In the case of JJAB’s RJ program, once a youth has been referred to the program, they meet with a Resource Specialist (RS). The RS works with the youth and their family for approximately 30 days to further evaluate readiness/appropriateness for participation in the actual Restorative Process, which includes a formal Restorative Conference as well as an agreement with acts of service to help the youth make amends for the harm that was caused. If the youth in question demonstrates a continued willingness to participate in the program and can identify their harmful actions, the conference will be scheduled.
Stay tuned for more on the Restorative Justice process!