...For diversion to take plea, viable alternatives to formal justice processing must exist in the form of community-based programmes and treatment facilities. Some of these programmes may involve a restorative justice approach or restitution, and to the extent that they seek to help the offender avoid future conflicts with the law they can be quite relevant and beneficial.
The concept of Restorative Justice (RJ) has emerged as leading ”way to work” in relation to administration of juvenile justice across the world and formed a large part of the dialogue during the first meeting of the APCJJ. There is no universally agreed upon definition of restorative justice, and the term has been used to encompass a large range of different practices. It is an evolving concept that has given rise to different interpretation in different countries and socio-cultural contexts. In general, it emphasises the repair of harms and of ruptured social bonds caused by crime; rather than the punishment of offenders.
...In the context of juvenile justice, that approach helps the police, the courts and other institutions act also as healing agents for the offenders, the victims and their families, and the community. Based on this foundation, fresh programming insights into the role of key actors in the juvenile justice process can be developed.
This restorative approach also acknowledges the highly stressful conditions within which all justice actors must work when dealing with juveniles. Young people who offend are often the most vulnerable people within the community - and working with this group can be difficult. The first meeting of the APCJJ not only showcased emerging RJ models in State led justice programming, participants also explored idea for the future to ensure that the needs of actors themselves, be they judges, police, lawyers and social workers (from a psycho social and stress management perspective) are addressed in reform programming and planning (see Recommendations). It is hoped that this focus on the needs of the actors themselves (judges, police, detention staff etc.) will further encourage key drivers of change to apply an ‘ethic of care’ that promotes the positive wellbeing of children where this ethic should be central to all adjudication/ judgment/ sentencing processes.