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Restorative Justice for Juveniles

Literature Review: A product of the Model Programs Guide
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Restorative justice emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior (Bazemore, 1998). Restorative justice programs for juveniles bring together those most affected by the criminal offense—the justice-involved youth, the victim, and community members—in a nonadversarial process to encourage accountability and to meet the needs of the victims and the community in repairing the damage that resulted from the crime (Bergseth and Bouffard, 2007; Bouffard, Cooper, and Bergseth, 2017). Important elements of restorative justice programs include 1) the justice-involved youth taking responsibility for his or her actions, 2) a dialogue between the justice-involved youth and the victim, and 3) the justice-involved youth performing an action to repair the harm caused by the offense, which may include writing a letter of apology, paying a fine, or participating in community service (Zehr, 2002).

With a more traditional justice system approach, professionals might ask such questions as: What laws have been broken? and What punishment does the person convicted deserve? Under the restorative justice model, questions are framed differently, such as: What is the nature of the harm resulting from the crime? and What must be done to repair the harm? (National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence, 2009). From a restorative justice perspective, rehabilitation cannot be achieved until the justice-involved youth acknowledges the harm he or she caused and makes amends (Bazemore and Umbreit, 1997). By bringing together victims, justice-involved youths, community members, and other key stakeholders in a variety of settings, restorative justice programs seek to help the youths understand the implications of their actions and provide an opportunity for them to reconnect to the community. Both of these goals, once attained, can decrease their likelihood of reoffending (Zehr, 2002; Braithwaite, 2002; Strang et al., 2013).

This literature review focuses on the use of restorative justice for juveniles, including the theoretical framework, target populations, the goals and various models of restorative justice programs, and the outcome evidence in regard to the effectiveness of juvenile restorative justice programs.


Last updated: August 2021