Role Changes in Balanced and Restorative Justice

New Roles for Victims, Communities, Juvenile Offenders, and Juvenile Justice Professionals

Victims, community members, juvenile offenders, and juvenile justice professionals move from operating in isolation to working together on coordinated, collaborative activities for planning and implementing policy, programs, and individual interventions.

  • The victim role shifts from being a witness or observer to being an active participant in finding an appropriate response.

  • The community role shifts from a passive position to active participation in managing the juvenile's behavior and supporting the victim.

  • The juvenile offender role shifts from passive avoidance to active taking of responsibility.

  • The juvenile justice professional role shifts from attempting to directly manage the juvenile's behavior to facilitating community processes that manage the juvenile's behavior.

In encouraging role changes for juvenile justice professionals, it is important to recognize the multiple ways in which juvenile justice professionals can apply restorative justice, regardless of job title or traditional area of practice.

For example, victim-offender mediation practice may be initiated and supervised by probation officers, by prosecutors in a county attorney's office, or by victim-assistance advocates within a department of community safety. Indeed, law enforcement officers are developing family group and large group conferencing programs in collaboration with local schools and community resources.

In expanding and changing roles, juvenile justice professionals need to base their work on restorative justice values and continually assess how well they are facilitating community involvement, including individual victims of crime, and assisting juvenile offenders in building competencies and becoming a part of the community. See Table 5 for examples of new roles within the BARJ Model.

Table 5. New Roles in the Balanced and Restorative Justice Model
Sanctioning Through Accountability
Rehabilitation Through Competency Development
Enhancement of Community Safety
Juvenile OffenderMust accept responsibility for behavior and actively work to restore loss to victims (if victims wish) and the community and face victim or victim representative (if victims wish) and community membersActively participates as a resource in service roles that improve quality of life in the community and provide new experiences, skills, and self-esteem as a productive resource for positive actionBecomes involved in constructive competency building and restorative activities in a balanced program while under adult supervision, develops internal controls and new peer and organizational commitments, and helps others escape offending patterns of behavior
VictimActively participates in all statges of the restorative process (if victim wishes and is able), documents psychological and financial impact of crime, participates in mediation voluntarily, and helps determine sanctions for juvenile offenderProvides input in to the rehabilitative process, suggests community service options for juvenile offenders, and participates in victim panels or victim awareness training for staff and juvenile offenders (if victim wishes)Provides input regarding continuing safety concerns, fear, and needed controls on juvenile offenders and encourages protective support for other victims
Community MemberParticipates as volunteer mediator/facilitator and community panel member, develops community service and compensated work opportunities for juvenile offenders with reparitive obligations, and assists victims and supports juvenile offenders in completing obligations.Develops new opportunities for youth to make productive contributions, bulid competency, and establish a sense of belongingProvides "guardianship" of juvenile offenders, mentoring, and input to juvenile justice systems regarding safety concerns; addresses underlying community problems that contribute to delinquency and provides "natural surveillance"
Juvenile Justice ProfessionalFacilitates mediation, ensures that restoration occurs, (by providing ways for juvenile offenders to earn funds for restitution), develops creative/restorative community service options, engages community members in the process and educates community on it's roleDevelops new roles for young offenders that allow them to practice and demonstrate competency, assess and builds on youth and community strengths, and develops community partnershipsDevelops range of incentives and consequences to ensure juvenile offender compliance with supervision objectives, assists school and family in their efforts to control and maintain juvenile offenders in the community, and develops prevention capacity of local organizations.
Adapted from Bazemore and Washington. 1995. Charting the future of the juvenile justice system: reinventing mission and management. Spectrum, The Journal of State Government.68(2):51-66

Changing Decisionmaking Roles: New Options

Decisionmaking on an appropriate set of obligations (or sanctions) by which the juvenile offender can satisfy accountability, competency development, and community safety objectives can be shaped by:

  • Direct participation by the victim and juvenile offender in dispositional decisions through victim-offender dialogue.

  • Direct participation by the victim, juvenile offender, and their respective communities of care in dispositional decisions through family group conferencing or similar community sanctioning and dispute resolution processes, including peacemaking sentencing.

  • Direct participation by selected community members in decisions through community panels (e.g., Vermont's reparative boards).

  • Direct victim and community input through victim and community impact statements to the court.

  • Indirect victim and community input through client satisfaction surveys by juvenile justice professionals.

  • Indirect victim input through a victim representative who speaks on behalf of the victim in the decisionmaking process.

  • Leadership from judges and prosecutors in facilitating restorative alternatives to the traditional court system, such as circle sentencing and Vermont's reparative boards.

Skills and Knowledge Needed by the Juvenile Justice Professional

  • Understanding of the victim experience.

  • Conflict management and mediation skills.

  • Knowledge of community organizations, leaders, and processes.

  • Knowledge of youth development and the competency framework.

  • Ability to work with multidisciplinary groups and possession of facilitation skills.

  • Communication skills.

  • Knowledge of job opportunities in the community.

  • Ability to supervise and support community members and organizations that work with juveniles.

  • Knowledge of program resources in the community.

  • Ability to identify extended support networks of victims and juvenile offenders.

  • Ability to initiate change and then pass leadership to others.

Juvenile Justice Professional Role-Change Examples

The following promising practices reflect how the changing roles of juvenile justice professionals in BARJ practice result in greater community involvement, support, and ownership in the outcomes.

Juvenile Justice Professionals Engaging the Community

  • Identifying a Problem. In central Minnesota, a probation officer became frustrated with the failure of available interventions to change the behavior patterns of offenders from a particular community. Offenders were in and out of the system repeatedly, both on new offenses and on violations of conditions of probation or supervised release. Looking for a solution, the officer began discussions with a social service provider who runs a job skills program.

  • Restorative Justice Planning. The probation officer (agent) and social service provider decided to explore restorative justice options. The agent obtained written material on various restorative justice program models from the restorative justice planner at the Minnesota Department of Corrections. He then shared and discussed some restorative justice material with a local judge. Having engaged the judge's interest, the agent identified key leaders in the target community and key players in the justice system. In conjunction with the social service provider, the agent organized a seminar to introduce restorative justice and possible program models to the group. The agent recruited speakers, sent invitations, made personal contacts to encourage attendance, and facilitated the meeting.

  • Facilitating the Community Planning Meeting. Meeting participants expressed an interest in further exploring the circle sentencing model. With the help of the social service provider, the agent organized and facilitated a series of monthly meetings that enabled the group to:

    • Become more knowledgeable about a community process of responding to crime known as circle sentencing.

    • Identify a target offender population for the process.

    • Identify other interested community members.

    • Begin planning implementation steps.

    Over the course of these meetings, the agent gradually eased himself out of the primary leadership role, while remaining vigilant to ensure that the process did not lose momentum.

  • Carrying on the Process. The social service provider applied for a grant on behalf of the group to obtain training in circle sentencing. Community members committed themselves to participate and recruit others. (Circle sentencing requires significant involvement of the community.) The agent now provides support and encouragement as the community moves forward in its preparation to conduct circles. The agent also identifies possible cases for which the circle process might be effective. Throughout the process, the agent has facilitated communication among the community, other system players, and State resources.

    This example illustrates the role of the justice professional as a change agent in bringing together available resources, the community, and the system to develop new solutions to difficult problems.

Identification and Involvement of Key Stakeholders

  • Collaborative Planning. The Faribault County (MN) Local Coordinating Council includes key decisionmakers from education, human services, corrections, private youth service providers, and law enforcement. The council handles case planning and case management for current juvenile cases from participating agencies through a process that includes meeting with the juvenile and at least one parent monthly. The parents and child are equal players in the process. Cases range from youth having difficulty in school to youth returning to the community from an out-of-home placement. Relationships with the family that may be confrontational at first have later developed into supportive relationships. On occasion, parents have asked for continuation of the meetings after the council was prepared to close the case, because it had become a source of support for the family.

Long-Term Prevention Activities

  • Community Involvement and Education. Juvenile justice professionals from CISP's Garfield Center in Allegheny County, PA, actively engage the community in crime prevention and community strengthening. The center offers many community activities, including family support group meetings, parent effectiveness training, open houses, a violence prevention program, and a Martin Luther King, Jr., Day celebration.

    For example, juvenile justice professionals offer parent effectiveness training for juvenile offenders under their supervision and for other youth in the area. Because CISP staff have found that many offenders are parents of young children and are in need of parenting education in addition to safe sex and reproductive health education, CISP offers its classes to the wider community as a preventative to possible future violence.

Creation of Partnerships for Prevention

In 1995, an unoccupied new addition to a senior citizens apartment complex in Dakota County, MN, was burned to the ground by three males, ages 14, 16, and 18. The three youth were charged with arson. The oldest admitted the charge and spent 6 months in jail. The two juveniles were placed on probation. All were ordered to apologize in some way to the community and to pay restitution.

Providing for Restorative Justice Accountability. The Dakota County, MN (BARJ Model Site), Victim-Offender Meeting Program contacted the senior residents and invited them to an informational meeting about the victim-offender meeting process. Thirty residents attended the meeting, which was facilitated by the juvenile justice professional who directs the Dakota County program. Of the residents who attended, 10 expressed interest in meeting face to face with the boys who had burned their building. The facilitators also met with each of the boys and explained the process to them. The juveniles agreed to meet with the seniors but only if each met with the group alone, without the other juveniles present.

Telling the Impact of the Crime. At the meeting, the seniors told the boys how their lives had been changed forever by the fire. They recalled waking up that March morning to the fierce orange glow outside their windows. They told of how they had to leave all their worldly possessions and run out of the building, some in their nightgowns. The seniors recounted how it felt to experience the heat from the fire and watch their blinds melt to the window. They talked about the terror of not knowing if they were going to escape in time.

Just "Goofing Around." The seniors heard the boys explain that they never meant to start a fire. The boys were just "goofing around" by starting paper on fire and then putting it out.

At the time of the fire, the eldest of the three was engaged to be married and was looking forward to starting a career with the U.S. Marine Corps. Following a 6-month jail term for burglary and arson, he now works two jobs and attends college. His life will never be the same.

Repairing the Harm to the Community. The insurance companies paid for most of the financial loss from the fire, leaving a minimal amount for the boys to pay. However, the seniors requested that the two oldest boys go out and teach others about the dangers of "playing with fire." It was suggested that the boys might be able speak before groups of young people about their experience. The juvenile justice professional agreed to help the boys fulfill that request in order to make amends to the seniors and the community.

Following Through. After contacting several schools, the juvenile justice professional found that a videotape would be the most effective way for the boys to reach a large number of students. Cable television stations were willing to provide technical assistance; however, it was necessary to find a producer who would either donate time or find investors willing to donate a large amount of money for the project.

The juvenile justice professional enlisted the help of the St. Paul Companies, a national insurance company based in the area, and the Insurance Federation of Minnesota to produce the video.

The fire marshal from the community where the fire occurred helped determine the best ages to target for an arson prevention video. It was decided that the video would target youth who were similar in age to those who started the fire. In preparation for the video, the juvenile justice professional arranged for a focus group consisting of children and youth to provide input on content. A second focus group of teachers and school administrators provided input from an educational perspective. It was decided that the video would feature one of the boys who started the fire and that a supplemental written curriculum would be developed as a teaching aid. In addition, it was agreed that the youth would participate in the video project under the condition that his identity would not be revealed.

Taping included a reenactment of the youth's arrest and incarceration. The juvenile justice professional was present at the video shoot with the youth. The arresting officer was interviewed, as were seniors who had participated in the meeting with the boys.

The production and film crew were supplied by the St. Paul Companies. Five insurance companies financed the production, and copies were distributed to fire marshals throughout Minnesota. To order this video, see Appendix A.

A Change in Countywide Systems Toward Restorative Justice

Juvenile Justice and Human Services Joint Effort. During 1996 and 1997, the Dane County, WI, Department of Human Services and Juvenile Court have joined forces in enlisting social workers, law enforcement, human services administrators, district attorneys, public defenders, and juvenile court judges to team up to implement the BARJ Model throughout their county in an effort to reform their juvenile delinquency supervision system. Areas of development and planning include:

  • Involving the Community in Preventing and Responding to Juvenile Delinquency. Dane County intends to present and discuss BARJ in a variety of community forums. Community outreach efforts are being directed at educators, students, service clubs, policymakers, law enforcement, civic organizations, and other interested citizen groups. Discussions focus on how BARJ principles can be implemented and on the roles community members and organizations can play in preventing and responding to delinquent behavior.

  • Developing a Victim-Offender Conferencing Program. Dane County is developing a juvenile victim-offender conferencing service program to provide victims of crime an opportunity to explain directly to offenders, in a safe and facilitated meeting, the impact of the offense and to ask questions of the offender. Planning, development, and implementation of this service will be overseen by a group of professionals and citizens representing a variety of systems and communities. Their goal is to integrate restorative justice and victim-centered justice into the already successful system of restitution and community service work performed by juvenile offenders in Dane County.

  • Designing a Consistent Risk and Strengths Assessment Process for Youth. Dane County is conducting research on risk for youth and is examining factors that contribute to recidivism, nature of the offense, and characteristics of the juvenile and family that will impact intervention strategies. Juvenile justice staff and community members are also developing "Youth as Resources" projects, which allow young offenders to demonstrate competency in the community.

  • Educating County Staff About the Balanced and Restorative Justice Approach Through Meetings, Newsletters, and Other Communications. To educate county staff, the juvenile justice department holds conferences, publishes a newsletter dedicated to the balanced approach, and involves staff in developing restorative policies and practices.

  • Tailoring the Model to the Needs of Their County. The county plans to include the concept of family competency in their programming relating to families, including learning to set limits, interacting with schools, supporting their child's successful activities, and other positive parenting approaches to promote competence in youth.

  • Reducing Institutionalization. Services for Children Come First (CCF), which serves children with severe emotional disturbance, include intensive supervision, immediate onsite crisis response, backup plans for school disruptions, mentoring, and short-term residential stabilization. Care planning is based on the balanced approach and is achieved by intense coordination by a team including school, community, family, and other relevant agencies. Part of the program includes focusing on juveniles at high risk of correctional placement, with applications of related intensity supervision (e.g., home detention, electronic monitoring, and community supervision).

A Move From Community "Corrections" to Community "Justice"

Deschutes County, OR, has long been committed to a BARJ approach to juvenile justice. To support its shift from a retributive to a more restorative system, Deschutes County has worked to change how the community views its juvenile justice department and how juvenile justice professionals view themselves. Changing roles reflect changing goals and objectives. The following goals and objectives are now a part of Deschutes County's focus on community justice:

  • Program Development. With community justice, the program focus shifts from a corrections emphasis on offenders to a balanced emphasis on the community, crime victims, and offenders. Thus, program initiatives reflect this balance. For example, program development is now required to build an array of community crime prevention and community restoration programs, victim participation and compensation services, and effective offender control and recidivism-reduction efforts.

  • Public Information. At the heart of community justice is the community. An ill-informed community should not be expected to respond with enthusiasm to the community justice movement. Therefore, Deschutes County is making a substantial effort to educate the public about the goals and objectives of community justice. The most informed public is thought to be an involved public. Therefore, extensive effort is being made to have community members organized and active with their public relations strategies. Special efforts are being made to have community members describe community justice to other residents via service club presentations, neighborhood gatherings, and religious events.

  • Staff Development. Many of Deschutes County's community corrections officers are trained probation officers. To serve victims and join hands with community members in crime prevention, extensive training is now required to assist in professional development of the officers for their new role as community justice officers.

  • Leadership Development. Deschutes County has formed a new community safety council that consists of citizens, judges, law enforcement officials, criminal defense attorneys, prosecutors, corrections officials, victim advocates, human service professionals, and elected officials. Leadership development training will be focused on the community safety council, which will henceforth be known as the community justice council.

  • Research and Evaluation. Studying the effects, benefits, and shortcomings of a community-centered focus on crime prevention, intervention, and corrections will aid ongoing program development. Research and evaluation design must be tailored to community justice, which includes outcomes related to community members, victims of crime, and offenders.

  • Systems Modification. Community justice is a shift in philosophy and practice. To succeed, the entire criminal justice system must participate, with community members playing a leadership role. The shift to community justice requires a critical analysis of intervention priorities, adoption of new practices in place of unproductive or counterproductive practices, and a commitment to interdependence by the criminal justice community.

Community Policing: Solving Problems

Shoplifting Program; Milton Keynes, England. Police have often led in changing their role to create a more restorative response to crime. This initiative is exemplified by a police department in a large urban area in England.

For fiscal year 1994-95, a comprehensive audit of expenditures across criminal justice agencies was undertaken that revealed how money was spent by the criminal justice system.

The audit revealed that the criminal justice system spends the vast majority of resources processing the cases brought to it and attempting to ensure due process but little on the prevention of crime (including the prevention of reoffending and revictimization) or service to victims, witnesses, and offenders.

The system spends time consulting with itself and obtaining information (often from the offender) in order to make decisions, but not much is done to address the needs of offenders, victims, or communities. The system seems primarily occupied with speeding the passage of cases and offenders.

The audit was conducted following the implementation of problem-solving policing in Milton Keynes, England, after it was recognized that police efforts were often hampered by the lack of a clearly defined underlying purpose of the criminal justice system.

The audit was difficult to implement because of the system's large number of agencies and its diverse management and financial information systems. For the first time, resource allocations have been made transparent for practitioners and the public alike.

For example, less than 1 percent of the overall budget is used for victim support and less than 1 percent is spent on intervention for young offenders. These numbers have provoked considerable debate about the purpose of the justice system and its current deployment of resources.

Milton Keynes police discovered that most offenders, youth and adult, began with shoplifting. It was decided that a problem-solving approach to shoptheft (shoplifting) offenders was needed to identify the underlying problems as soon as someone came to the notice of the police. Traditionally, the police had given warnings (a police "caution") and prosecuted in only the more serious cases. The police also wanted to experiment with involving retailers (the victims) in handling shoplifting cases so that the offenders learned the consequences of their behavior on others, and for themselves. In 1994, the Milton Keynes Retail Theft Initiative began, in which retailers and shop thieves are brought face to face by the police. Subsequent mediation sessions allow the retailers to express their feelings and concerns, and many offenders are unaware of the impact of their behavior on the retailers.

The offenders learn that shop theft is an offense that has implications for their victims, the wider community, and for themselves. At the sessions, offenders respond to the approach, which enables them to talk frankly about what is going on in their lives that may be provoking their behavior.

Aside from mediating between the two parties (with a parent or guardian present in juvenile cases), the police try to identify the underlying problem. In more than 3 years since the initiative was launched, the police have determined many of the reasons why offenders steal from shops. For young people, peer pressure, bullying, and even parental abuse may be almost daily occurrences. In the case of adults, alcohol and drug abuse, marital problems, and bereavement have surfaced as underlying reasons.

To deal with these issues, the police, in partnership with other local agencies, have developed a series of programs that include antibullying programs; "Protective Behaviors," which teaches young people to make decisions independently without succumbing to outside pressure; youth counseling; and a prison awareness program, which alerts offenders at risk of reoffending to what life is like inside prison.

The Home Office evaluation of the retail theft initiative showed that recidivism rates were reduced substantially (by well over a third) and the costs of conducting the mediation sessions and implementing other programs were easily offset by not prosecuting cases through the criminal justice system. Victims reported greater satisfaction with the program and, after their involvement, began recognizing the needs of the offenders instead of viewing all as needing punishment. The shift in perception has helped attract funding for intervention programs. The initiative has stimulated wide interest in the concept of victim-offender mediation and community policing.

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OJJDP Report: Guide for Implementing the Balanced and Restorative Justice Model NCJ 167887