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Restorative Justice repairs the harm done

This is a story about two young people who made a mistake and were given an opportunity to repair the harm done. It started out as a day of shopping and ended with a summons into court for petty theft. Both young people were given an opportunity to participate in YouthZone’s restorative justice program. The restorative justice program brought together the kids, their parents, the store owner, a community member, and a trained mediator. The purpose was to show the young ladies the harm they caused by stealing and to determine an appropriate consequence for their actions. After much conversation, a few tears, and a new realization of what it means to be a responsible part of a community, the girls not only walked away with a contract to help repair the harm done, but they also left with job offers from the very store owner from whom they had stolen merchandise. The power of a restorative justice session for juvenile offenders is tremendous. The central purpose of restorative justice is to repair the harm done. Juvenile offenders learn the impact their behavior has on others by facing the victim and taking responsibility for their choices. Juveniles further learn the community is also harmed by their actions.YouthZone has been conducting restorative justice sessions since 1993, involving the offender, his or her parent(s), the victim, two mediators, a community member and a police officer, if available. Juveniles must be willing to take responsibility for their actions by admitting guilt. The key is a willingness for the people involved to come together and address the situation openly. The offender is empowered to take an active role and repair the harm he has done, rather than playing a passive role waiting for what will happen to him. During a restorative justice session, everyone is given the opportunity to express the impacts of the crime. This alone is a very meaningful to the participants. The juvenile’s strengths are utilized in developing an agreement. Four areas are addressed: repairing harm done to the victim, to the community, to their family and to the offender himself. A contract is signed that often includes restitution, an apology letter and community service. Each contract is individualized, specific and measurable. The juvenile is given a completion date and progress is monitored by YouthZone. If the contract is not completed, the juvenile must appear in court to account for his/her crime. You can become involved in the restorative justice program. Volunteers are used as community members, surrogate victims and facilitators. You are invited to attend a YouthZone lunch at noon June 14 in the Glenwood Springs office to learn more about restorative justice. Please contact YouthZone at 945-9300 for more information or to RSVP. This is an opportunity to make a lasting impact on the lives of young people in your community. Jill Dupras is the restorative justice coordinator for YouthZone.


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