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Alameda County pioneers restorative justice for youth

June 16, 2009

From Annette Fuentes’ article in New America Media:  BERKELEY. Members of the circle arrived one by one on a recent Friday
evening at the Berkeley home of Leavy Perkins. She is the great
grandmother of Dante Green, and had raised the young man from infancy.
Green, 18, was the reason they’d converged, and he greeted them with a
smile and warm hug before the members took seats around Perkins’ dining
room table.

The Circle of Support and Accountability—COSA–that gathered at
Perkins’ home has been meeting weekly for the past six months,
beginning when Green was a juvenile offender locked up in Camp Sweeney,
a juvenile detention facility. It offers him guidance and direction and
demands honesty and commitment in return, as Green creates a new,
healthier life for himself. This spring, he completed a year at
Berkeley College with a 3.75 grade point average and aspirations to
transfer to UC Berkeley.

His early years were less promising. Green’s run-ins with the juvenile
justice system began when he was 14 and stole a bicycle. Then he stole
a car and a laptop computer. He went truant at school and was in and
out of court, missing dates and pushing the envelope with the system.
Finally, he landed in detention for more than a year.

But Alameda’s juvenile justice system was piloting a new alternative to
treating youthful offenders and Green would be the first candidate. At
Christmas time 2008, he was given a chance to make amends for his
crimes in a very different way. And he took it.

Behind the COSA and the Alameda courts’ decision to adopt an
alternative sentencing model was Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth
(RJOY), a nonprofit begun in 2005 by attorney Fania Davis, now its
executive director. RJOY’s philosophy-and Davis’–is based on the
principles of restorative practices, which focus on the harm to victims
and the wider community and holds the offender accountable for their
actions, which means restitution and making right what was wronged.
Restorative justice addresses the needs of victims and offenders that
are usually neglected in the criminal justice system, and in so doing,
aims to reduce recidivism, strengthen communities and decrease costs of
the current system.

Read it all.



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