Franklin County Restorative Justice Circles
The Community Restorative Circle (CRC) is a community based, Court operated diversion program designed to provide an alternative response from the juvenile justice system for misdemeanor offenders. They adhere to the restorative justice theory which is based on the premise of accountability to the victim and the community. The CRC addresses the needs of the youth, the victim (if applicable) and the community by developing a holistic understanding of the youth offender and the circumstances that led to the offense. The Circle participants discuss the offense, ask questions, and make decisions as to how the offender should take responsibility for his or her actions. These decisions are prepared in the form of a comprehensive, collaborative plan of action that is signed by all parties involved. Juvenile Court staff then monitor the youth’s progress. The information and knowledge gained from this Restorative Justice experience assists the youthful offender to be better equipped to make improved life choices, change negative behaviors and leads to the enhancement of public safety. Successful completion of this diversion process can result in the youth not having a formal court record.
Benefits of the Community Restorative Justice Circles:
- If the youth completes the program successfully, the youth will have no official juvenile court record that results from these charges. As we know, juvenile court records can prevent youth from obtaining employment through Summer Job programs or after-school and/or internship programs, as well as hamper them from gaining admittance to colleges and universities, as well an inability to even volunteer at several community- based agencies.
- The victim has the opportunity to participate in the proceedings, providing that individual a voice. Also, because the victims and offenders interact under the guidelines of the program, both parties have the capacity to develop increased empathy for the other.
- The Circles take place in the community with community participants (CRC volunteers), the youthful offenders are encouraged to take pride in the security of their neighborhoods, thus giving them a sense of belonging and connectedness. The offenders are given an opportunity to repair the harm, which encourages better decision-making by that youth in the future. This process also assists the youth offenders to “become the best versions of themselves”. The Restorative Justice plans that are given to the offenders during the Circle meetings are created to spark the youths’ critical thinking skills and creativity which helps them to understand that there is a different course that they can now chart for their future with the right tools. Parents of the youth offender are also given support by the Circle volunteers which greatly changes the family relationship for the better.
- The cases are kept out of the court room, lessening the strain on county court dockets.
Measures of Success:
- The behavior of the youth being served in this program is one key indicator of success. Variables under consideration include successful conclusion of the program as well as analysis of type and timing of recidivism; and,
- Three hundred sixty-degree satisfaction and opinion surveys are completed at the conclusion of every circle by the youth, parent, victim and circle participants. These surveys were engineered to measure perceptions of the outcomes discussed in the previous paragraph (such as empathy, security of neighborhoods, impact on future behavior, etc.)