Restorative justice is an innovative approach to conflict resolution which shows promising results throughout the country and abroad. It focuses on repairing the harm caused by crime and conflict rather than simply punishing the offender. Too often, we rely on harsh punishments, like incarceration, which prove to be expensive and counter-productive in many cases, especially when applied to youth offenders. Many school systems involve the police for non-violent incidents and feed the “school-to-prison” pipeline. More importantly, it is a victim centered process that gives the person harmed an opportunity to have a voice in the process and subsequent healing. There are many studies which show the cycle of victims becoming the aggressors when a process is not available that allows healing.
Restorative justice processes and practices can serve as a cost-effective and useful alternative. It holds juvenile offenders accountable to their victims and their community, and helps them understand the impact of their actions. It establishes a non-adversarial process that brings together offenders, their victims, and other interested parties to ask three major questions:
- What is the nature of the harm resulting from the crime?
- How should this harm be repaired?
- And who is responsible for the repair?
Our bill allows local education agencies to use ESEA funding for key school personnel such as teachers and counselors to receive training in restorative justice and conflict resolution. This training will provide them with the essential tools to address minor student conflicts.
Note: It does not appear that this bill has been filed in the 112th Congress. The text of this bill introduced in the last Congress can be found here.