Balanced & Restorative Justice
The foundation of restorative juvenile justice practice is a
coherent set of values and principles, a guiding vision, and
an action-oriented mission.
Three Basic Principles of Restorative Justice
Van Ness states that if crime is more than law breaking then:
- Justice requires that we should work to heal victims, communities
and offenders who have been injured by crime.
- Victims, communities, and offenders should have opportunity
as early and fully as possible.
- We must rethink the relative roles and responsibilities of
the government and the community. Government is responsible
for reserving a just order and the community for a just
Values and Vision of Restorative Justice
- Crime is harm.
- Crime hurts individual victims, communities, and juvenile
offenders and creates an obligation to make things right.
- All parties should be a part of the response to the crime,
including the victim if he or she wishes, the community, and
the juvenile offender.
- The victim's perspective is central to deciding how to repair
the harm caused by the crime.
- Accountability for the juvenile offender means accepting
responsibility and acting to repair the harm done.
- The community is responsible for the well-being of all its
members, including both victim and offender.
- All human beings have dignity and worth.
- Restoration -- repairing the harm and rebuilding relationships
in the community -- is the primary goal of restorative juvenile
- Results are measured by how much repair was done rather than
by how much punishment was inflicted.
- Crime control cannot be achieved without active involvement
of the community.
- The juvenile justice process is respectful of age, abilities,
sexual orientation, family status, and diverse cultures and
backgrounds -- whether racial, ethnic, geographic, religious,
economic, or other -- and all are given equal protection and
The Balanced Approach Mission
The graphic below is a representation of the balanced approach
Transforming the Current Juvenile Justice System Into a More
Juvenile justice professionals have the power to transform juvenile
justice into a more balanced and restorative justice system.
By developing new roles, setting new priorities, and redirecting
resources, juvenile justice professionals can:
- Make needed services available for victims of crime.
- Give victims opportunities for involvement and input.
- Actively involve community members, including individual
crime victims and offenders, in making decisions and carrying
out plans for resolving issues and restoring the community.
- Build connections among community members.
- Give juvenile offenders the opportunity and encouragement
to take responsibility for their behavior.
- Actively involve juvenile offenders in repairing the harm
- Increase juvenile offenders' skills and abilities.
Getting Started: Steps in Organizational Change
The new roles and daily practices for juvenile justice professionals
described in this Guide will be most effective if implemented
as a part of comprehensive systemic change in juvenile justice.
System-level leadership in organizational change will set the
climate for line staff commitment to a new vision.
At the most general level, jurisdictions implementing the model
- Develop consensus around common goals and performance objectives
of the balanced approach mission.
- Assess current practices and policies for consistency with
those goals and objectives.
- Establish action steps and benchmarks for gauging progress
and ensuring movement toward the goals and objectives.
- Begin using the mission actively each day to guide decisions.
To accomplish significant reform, the BARJ Model must be understood
as an alternative that replaces, rather than adds to, existing
practices and policies. BARJ is a framework for strategic planning
rather than a new service or program.
The following is a list of key activities that jurisdictions
find necessary for implementing their desired system reforms
toward a more balanced and restorative justice model:
- Identify the stakeholders in the work of juvenile justice.
- Involve representatives of the stakeholders in all planning.
- Assess the current status of the agency with respect to BARJ
policies and practices by asking:
- How are resources spent?
- What are the current performance outcomes for agency intervention?
- Who benefits (victims, community members, juvenile offenders,
juvenile justice professionals)?
- How do staff spend their time?
- What are community perceptions about juvenile justice?
- What are victim perceptions about juvenile justice?
- Who has input into disposition decisions?
- What is the level of community involvement in the juvenile
- What factors determine case handling?
- Identify discrepancies between current practices and BARJ
goals and objectives.
- Identify the most promising opportunities for change.
- Set specific goals based on the information you have gathered.
- Create an ongoing advisory process involving stakeholders.
- Measure results.
- Modify plans periodically based on results.
Changes in practice must go hand in hand with changes in the
value system. Implementing this new approach will be evolutionary,
and some practices will look similar on the surface but will
be guided by different values. Consequently, it is essential
that policy and practice be tested against restorative values
on a regular basis.
Frequently referring to and reflecting on the overall vision
will assist in keeping changes on track. It is also important
that specific implementation plans be developed at the grassroots
level through a community-based process that engages all stakeholders.
There is no single blueprint for this model. For change to be
meaningful, implementation of the BARJ approach should be guided
by the needs of each jurisdiction and its community members.
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