Restorative Justice and the Juvenile Justice System
Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC)
In Chicago and cities throughout the United States, young people of color are disproportionately affected by high rates of poverty, arrest, school dropout, unemployment and violence. Too often, punishment and referral to the juvenile and criminal justice system are the first responses to these complex social issues, despite high rates of youth re-offending, and skyrocketing costs. As a result, youth of color are overrepresented at every stage of the juvenile justice process, from arrest, to court referral, to detention and incarceration. At each stage, restorative practices can be used as alternatives to decrease DMC. Restorative practices have the potential to impact positively DMC both by serving as alternatives to arrest, court referral and incarceration, and by mobilizing communities of color around progressive juvenile justice issues.
Using Restorative Practices Across The Continuum
Restorative practices can be used at each entry point in the juvenile justice system. CJYI has used restorative practices:
- As a way to prevent conflict at schools and in communities by providing spaces for dialogue and healing through peacemaking circles
- As an alternative to arrest in communities and schools through conflict circles and healing circles
- As a community-based court diversion after an arrest but instead of adjudication
- As a way to prepare youth to return to school following suspension, expulsion, or time in an alternative school
- As a way to transition youth back to the community following detention or imprisonment
We continue to focus our work in Chicago communities most impacted by the juvenile justice system. We have been instrumental in pushing the agenda of juvenile justice reform and insisting that community engagement be front and center of any strategy for impacting DMC, the school-to-jail pipeline and the criminalization of youth. This is a crucial time for ensuring that community engagement remains central to juvenile justice reform. A primary challenge at this stage is to ensure that the voices of communities impacted by the juvenile and criminal justice system are heard, and that efforts to overhaul the system include their participation at every stage.
This seven minute video, Youth and Police Healing Circles: Illuminating the Power of Restorative Justice, provides a brief overview of how peace circles can be used working with young people involved with the justice system.