In order to provide students with the opportunity to be held accountable for their actions and have them learn from their experiences, supporters of restorative justice have proposed a switch from current discipline practices into a system that focuses on healing relationships. This system asks why the incident happened and how can it can be prevented. It is different than simply finding out who was involved and dispensing out punishment without considering how effective the punishment will actually be, or whether it is deserved.
This type of system is known as restorative justice. By using several methods, advocates for restorative justice state that it aims to “restore” those affected by the incident and meet the needs that might have been created by the event. These methods vary but usually follow a theme of cooperative resolution and voluntary participation. Conferences between the individuals involved are quite common.
Restorative justice has actually been implemented in schools and in the juvenile justice system. The Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP) states that it works on the principles of restorative justice and focuses on working with people affected by juvenile crime.
The program brings victims and offenders together to discuss what happened and allows the offender to take responsibility for his or her actions. Each side is allowed to state the actions and how they can reach a solution to the problem. Once both sides can agree upon a solution, they discuss how to carry it out and a time frame of when it can be completed.[pullquote_left]The program brings victims and offenders together to discuss what happened and allows the offender to take responsibility for his or her actions.” [/pullquote_left]
VORP says they have seen success with their program and great response from participants in the program. Noelle Nightingale, Executive Director of VORP, attributes some of the success to financial concerns and the need for alternatives.
“I think a lot of it has to do with economic times,” said Nightingale. “Budgets are pretty tight so people are a little bit more open to alternatives to what has currently been happening.”
Nightingale believes this to be one of the many factors as to why people take advantage of VORP. Noelle also stated that using VORP makes sense fiscally.
“They can’t just hire more probation officers,” Nightingale said. “They can’t just keep all the pods open in juvenile hall.”