During the COVID-19 pandemic, violent crimes committed by people under age 18 increased, including auto theft, assaults and robberies.
But too often, courts and the “juvenile justice” system don’t address teenagers’ underlying needs and behavior. Many teens are released only to commit crimes again.
What if there was a better way to address the harm that young people cause themselves and others?
An approach called restorative justice is getting more attention as an alternative response. The public safety bill signed by Gov. Tim Walz last spring includes funding and a new state office to promote restorative justice programs across Minnesota.
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Ramsey County began quietly using it with some juvenile cases three years ago, following experiments in Minneapolis, where young people who completed a restorative justice process were half as likely to be rearrested by police a year later as young people who went through the traditional court system.
MPR News host Angela Davis talks about how restorative justice works with a researcher and two people who lead restorative justice programs.
Kara Beckman researches restorative justice programs in several Minnesota communities as a senior evaluator in the Healthy Youth Development - Prevention Research Center at the University of Minnesota Medical School.
Brenda Burnside reviews juvenile cases for diversion to a restorative justice process as a member of the three-person team convened by (Re)Imagining Justice for Youth at the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office. She is CEO of Let’s Circle Up and has a background in dispute resolution, special education and restorative community work.
Sharon Hendrichs is the restorative justice director in Yellow Medicine County, one of the first Minnesota communities to use restorative practices as an alternative to the traditional court system for young people more than 20 years ago.
Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.