We are all more than the worst harm we’ve ever done. This is the idea behind “restorative justice.” Restorative justice is rooted in indigenous practices. It focuses on creating, maintaining, and restoring relationships. This can be done anywhere that we make human connections. It is one way to interrupt the cycle of intergenerational racial traumas*.
Healing the community without jail time.
Applying Restorative Justice to the Youth Criminal Legal System
Instead of punishing youth for behaviors that could be a result of mental health challenges, restorative justice gives students a second chance to take accountability for their harms. Programs exist to diverge youth who are arrested into restorative justice programs instead.
The process can ask:
Who was harmed?
What are the needs and responsibilities of all affected?
How do all affected parties together address needs and repair harm?
If successful and depending on the program, this process can provide a plan to repair harm, maintain accountability, and even improve family connectedness. Diversion from the youth criminal legal system can help youth avoid facing further mental health challenges there. Advocating for restorative justice can normalize repair of harm instead of disciplinary action.
*Intergenerational trauma = trauma that gets passed down from those who directly experience an incident to future generations
How are you feeling after reading this?
- In one county, youth who completed restorative justice diversion were 44% less likely to get arrested again, compared to youth sent to the youth criminal legal system. [source]
- Students attending schools using restorative justice have lower odds of missing school. [source]
- 50 to 75 percent of the two million youth encountering the juvenile justice system have a mental illness. [source]
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Explore Related Action Area
Continue your engagement by learning more about and taking action on related issues.
Crisis response & policing, the school-to-prison pipeline, intergenerational trauma and other inequitable conditions.
The mental health workforce needs more diversity and training on cultural humility.
Many counties deploy police for a mental health crisis even though they aren’t appropriate responders.
BIPOC students face unequal disciplinary action in schools.
Racial justice is dependent on healing.
Rooted in indigenous practices, restorative justice focuses on building relationships.