Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $999,663)
The proposed Juvenile Restorative Justice and Family Intervention Initiative is a statewide “upstream” program geared at diverting youth under the age of 18 from the justice system. The program builds on existing juvenile restorative justice work in Nebraska, expanding services to engage families. The Office of Dispute Resolution will work with approved mediation centers to provide four juvenile restorative justice services. The services are: 1) Victim Youth Conferencing, 2) Juvenile Justice Family Conferencing, 3) Juvenile Justice Family Group Conferencing, and 4) Excessive Absenteeism Conferencing. Each of these services is structured differently and have different objectives. Referrals for these restorative processes come either pre-court/pre-diversion (e.g., school-based referral) or through a Diversion office. While the processes themselves have different objectives, the overall goals of juvenile restorative justice through this proposed project are the same. These goals include reducing recidivism; reducing disproportionate contact with the justice system for Black, Indigenous, and people of color; and having a positive impact on youth and their families leading to success in school (i.e., staying in school) and breaking the school to prison pipeline. In addition to providing juvenile restorative justice services to youth and their families the proposed project will form a stakeholder engagement group. This group will review case and evaluation data and compare outcomes to goals. If goals are not being achieved, for example, referral numbers are lower than expected, the group will determine why and recommend changes in an effort to meet the stated goals. Focus groups and interviews will also be conducted to better understand perspectives related to restorative justice. The information from the focus groups and interviews will assist with the creation of educational material provided to schools, diversion offices, county attorneys, and the general public. An external evaluation will also be conducted to determine whether youth participating in a restorative justice diversion program are more likely to complete diversion than youth who complete standard diversion.