Current understanding in the field of criminology holds that an important factor in changing criminal behavior and thinking lies in the increased understanding of empathy for a youth’s victim(s). Humanizing the criminal event, making the victim a real human being, and increasing the understanding of the human impacts of the criminal act are key to reshaping the thinking and behavior of youth. Restorative Dialogues are for youth who have already accepted responsibility for the harms they have caused and understand how their actions impacted others. Restorative Dialogues provides a victim and youth an opportunity to meet face to face in a safe and structured environment. The goal of such meeting is to provide the opportunity for:
- Youth to take direct responsibility for the harms they have caused, understand the impact of what they did, and help develop a plan to repair the harm; and
- Interested victims to tell how they have been affected, receive answers to questions about the crime and be directly involved in developing a workable plan to repair the harm.
Victim Assistance, Youth Accountability Program (VAYA)
VAYA is conceived to provide support for victims of juvenile crime, while supporting the offenders in becoming increasingly accountable for their actions. The VAYA is a series of classes which youth offenders go through over the course of one month. The classes are designed to encourage the youth to take responsibility for their actions, explore how those actions have impacted their victims and the wider community, and develop a plan for making things right.
A restorative circle is a facilitated group dialogue and decision-making process in which a youth who has done harm is encouraged and supported by community members to be directly accountable to the harms caused. As a result of the circle process, the youth will be supported to take responsibility by sharing the details of what happened, exploring the
impact of his/her actions, and identifying ways in which to make it right with their victim and their community. The youth will also have the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of their choices and to explore possibilities for their future. By providing a consistent structure for open and respectful communication, restorative circles provide an opportunity for youth and community members to establish connection, discover meaning and deepen understanding in profound ways.
RESOLVE is a nonprofit community partner of the Jackson County Juvenile Justice which provides restorative justice programs and services.
Community Accountability Board
The establishment of the Jackson County Community Accountability board was based on community involvement with youth and is beneficial to all involved. Holding youth accountable provides an opportunity to make logical cause and effect associations about actions and consequences.
The Juvenile Division began a Community Accountability Board based on:
- Research indicating “lower risk” youth (based on the likelihood of committing additional crimes) should be held accountable for their behavior but the consequence should be quick, appropriate and not excessive.
- Community members were asking for an opportunity to work with youth, and the creation of the Community Accountability Board allow youth to continue to be held accountable and provided an opportunity for the Juvenile Division to focus its attention on “High and Medium Risk” youth.
The “Low Risk” youth referred to the Community Accountability Board are typically first-time offenders who were involved in offenses like criminal mischief, harassment or theft, although other offenses can be referred to the Community Accountability Board since it is based on the “risk” of the youth and not the offense. Each case is screened and referred from Juvenile Division.
A Probation Officer coordinates the board activities and facilitates meetings and training. Youth face a panel of volunteer community members who decide upon an appropriate accountability/consequence and services to repair the harm done by the youth.
Juvenile Fire Setter Program
In partnership with local fire districts, the Resolve Center for Dispute Resolution and Restorative Justice facilitates juvenile fire setter intervention services for youth who have been involved in fire setting offenses. Through this program, the goal is to have youth deepen their understanding of the impact of their actions and to support them in taking responsibility for their actions. If there was a victim of the crime who is interested in meeting with the youth, the youth are then expected to participate in a face-to-face dialogue with the person(s) they harmed. Finally, an individualized meeting is coordinated with a trained Juvenile Fire Setter Interventionist to reinforce the impact of their behavior on the community and to further educate the youth on the risks and dangers of fire setting.