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Creating statutes to deliver restorative justice

July 13, 2011

….Vermont’s Tit. 28 Sec. 2a titled “Restorative justice” provides that it is the policy of that state “that principles of restorative justice be included in shaping how the criminal justice system responds to persons charged with or convicted of criminal offenses. The policy goal is a community response to a person’s wrongdoing at its earliest onset, and a type and intensity of sanction tailored to each instance of wrongdoing.”

Vermont’s approach to implementation is less formal than that of Colorado. It charges law enforcement officials with developing and employing restorative justice approaches whenever feasible and responsive to specific criminal acts, court diversion, sentencing, and people who are in the correctional system. These restorative justice programs are to encourage “participation by local community members, including victims, when they so choose, as well as public officials, in holding offenders accountable for damage caused to communities and victims, and in restoring offenders to the law-abiding community.”

….Florida’s Stat. Ch. 985.155, titled “Neighborhood restorative justice,” authorizes the state attorney to establish Restorative Justice Boards consisting of five volunteer members, of which: two are appointed by the state attorney; two are appointed by the public defender; and one is appointed by the chief judge of the circuit. These boards have jurisdiction to hear all matters involving first-time, nonviolent juvenile offenders who are alleged to have committed a delinquent act within the geographical area covered by the board.

The Florida state attorney may also establish Neighborhood Restorative Justice Centers for the purpose of operating a deferred prosecution program for first-time, nonviolent juvenile offenders. If the state attorney refers a juvenile matter to a Neighborhood Restorative Justice Center, the board is required to convene a meeting within 15 days after receiving the referral.

,,,,Kansas has taken a more limited approach that those described above. Kan. Stat. 38-2346, titled “Immediate intervention programs,” provides that “each county or district attorney may adopt a policy and establish guidelines for an immediate intervention program by which a juvenile may avoid prosecution. In addition to the county or district attorney adopting policies and guidelines for the immediate intervention programs, the court, the county or district attorney and the director of the intake and assessment center, pursuant to a written agreement, may develop local diversion  programs that permit cases to be referred by the county or district attorney or the intake and assessment worker, or both, to youth courts, restorative justice centers, hearing officers or other local programs as sanctioned by the court.”

In each state having a restorative justice statute, there was no doubt a small number of committed people who devoted untold hours toward reforming the criminal law policy. All in all, these statutes represent a good start toward a significant modification of our concept of justice, from proportional revenge to restoration.

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