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Restorative justice is a win-win

September 12, 2014

What happened to the idea of “restorative justice,” where everybody is a winner in a win-win game rather than a zero-sum game? Restorative justice is a philosophy similar to the reconciliation philosophy that led South Africa to a peaceful democracy post-apartheid, in which law enforcement engages with offenders, victims and community members to strengthen them all.

Restorative justice is central to the success of community policing.

When Janet Reno was state attorney of Miami-Dade County, she worked with leaders like Bob Simms of the Community Relations Board, who was my boss, and Dennis Moss, of the West Perrine Crime Prevention Program in a low-income community, to advance community policing, a strategy of collaborative partnerships among law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce crime and fear and to promote trust.

Instead of adopting zero tolerance as a solution to push-out “problem children,” they developed a “circle” model of community policing, which included meetings every week with the state attorney, public safety and law enforcement officials, community organizations, and those the greater community would label as “thugs.” This was a model that Janet Reno took to the Justice Department as United States attorney general when the “Community Oriented Policing Services,” or COPS, program was launched in 1994 to revolutionize policing.

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