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Since 2003, the Council on Children and Families has worked to integrate community justice principles in state and local policies and practices in an effort to promote safe and healthy communities and to enhance public confidence in the juvenile and criminal justice systems. The need for this work emerged from findings of a juvenile delinquency intake study that was conducted by the Council and the Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives. In part, this study identified barriers to providing services within the juvenile justice system to better meet the needs of troubled youth and their families.
The Council, has provided restorative practices training to over 1,000 individuals and has provided technical assistance to over 100 state- and local-level initiatives. In addition, Council staff are working with Fight Crime: Invest in Kids New York to implement demonstration projects in five counties that employ innovative prevention and intervention approaches that aim to prevent placement of youth in the juvenile justice and adult criminal systems as well as to successfully return youth to communities after placement.
Community Justice is an approach to crime and delinquency that includes the community in criminal justice processes and is concerned with improving the quality of community life and addressing the needs of victims. Community Justice is defined by three principle elements:
Community Focus and Partnerships Community Justice emphasizes partnerships between the justice system and local communities in order to strengthen crime prevention efforts, increase citizenship involvement, and build community. By focusing on local communities, diverse organizations can collaborate with one another and local volunteers.
Restorative Justice Community Justice initiatives are designed to reduce the harmful effects of crime. In particular, they embrace the principle of restorative justice where criminal harms need to be fully identified, and whenever possible, repaired. Criminal harm can be personal, such as the emotional trauma of victimization; harm can be material, such as damage or loss of property; and harm can be communal, such as material damage to public property, the public risk created as a result of drunk driving, or even the decline of community as citizens withdraw from civic life due to fear of crime.
The central tenet of restorative justice is that offenders have an obligation to the community. This is done in two ways. First, offenders must take full responsibility for the consequences of their crime by making amends to the victim and the community. Second, they must demonstrate their ability to be a community member in good standing by complying with supervision requirements and seeking opportunities for success as a law-abiding citizen.
In the United States there are four common restorative practices: