Restorative Justice is commonly known as a theory of criminal justice that focuses on a crime as an act against another person or the community, rather than a crime against the state.
Restorative Justice takes many different forms, but all systems have some aspects in common. In criminal cases, victims may have the opportunity to express the full impact the crime has had upon their life, to receive answers to any lingering questions about the incident and to participate in holding the offender accountable for his or her actions. Offenders may be able to provide some type of compensation. Types of compensation may include community service, education or programming to prevent recidivism, or restitution: money paid directly to the victim for their loss.
Restorative Justice sometimes happens in the context of a courtroom, in the community or through a nonprofit organization. In the courtroom, a first-time, or low-level offender, may be referred to a Restorative Justice program. Many times, the offender will receive a deferred judgment, meaning that if the offender can successfully complete all of the terms and conditions that are assigned by the court, no judgment will be entered upon the offender’s criminal record.
In the community, the offender may meet with employees of a nonprofit organization such as the Center for Creative Justice. The center is Story County’s only nonprofit adult probation services provider. The center supervises approximately 800 cases each year. Without the center, those first-time and low-level offenders would simply receive a fine and/or jail sentence with little to no rehabilitative effort and absolutely no supervision.
The center’s staff supervises the payment of court costs and restitution, as well as the completion of programming such as substance abuse and/or mental health treatment, drinking drivers’ courses, batterers’ education programs, anger management, and parenting classes. The center’s probation officers also may help offenders secure resources such as employment or housing. Probation officers help offenders identify, and work on, needed areas of change.
More than 80 percent of our clients successfully complete their probation. With each individual success, our communities are strengthened.
Restorative Justice is calling us to a higher level of functioning, both as individuals and as communities. Many in our communities are ready to reach for a positive vision for our future. We are limited only by the scope of our vision and our belief in our own capacity to care about others.
Contributed by Mark Kubik, Executive Director, Center for Creative Justice