Restorative Justice Worth a Try

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Regarding school suspensions, this is an idea that might be worth trying. When I lived in Pennsylvania, I served on something called a “Youth Aid Panel.” These panels were groups of trained volunteer private citizens. They would hear cases of juveniles arrested for minor offenses (small value shoplifting, alcohol possession, disorderly conduct, etc.). The cases were referred by local police departments where the juvenile had already admitted guilt and the panels operated under the supervision of the county district attorney’s office. The goal was two-fold, to unclog court calendars and to serve as restorative justice. The panel would interview the juvenile and then come up with an eight-week program.
The program might consist of letters of apology, community service, academic projects, etc. The juvenile was required to check in by phone once a week with the panel member that had been designated as “mentor.” Juveniles successfully doing the eight weeks had their record expunged. Juveniles were expected to stay “clean” for the eight weeks (and beyond). Failure to observe the terms would have the juvenile removed from the program and put back into the juvenile justice system. There was very little recidivism among those juveniles that went through the program.
Perhaps a derivative of this could be implemented by the school system — more guidance, less non-productive punishment.
Rick Saunders, Chincoteague