Restorative Justice Louisville (RJL) provides a holistic and restorative approach to the traditional criminal justice system by bringing together the offender, victim and community to make things right. Through facilitated conferences, all parties involved collectively identify harm and determine a way forward that is centered on healing for everyone. Using the restorative justice approach ensures that compassion and restitution are integral parts of the judicial process.
Restorative Justice Louisville (RJL) began in February of 2011 and is the first nonprofit in Kentucky to provide an alternative to our criminal justice system. The RJL pilot program began in the Louisville Metro Police Department 2nd Division and has expanded to the 1st and 4th Divisions. Modern restorative justice practices widely emerged in the 1980’s, but these practices actually represent ancient ways of implementing justice. To date, there are more than 1,000 restorative justice programs in North America with 30 states in the U.S. having developed restorative justice legislation.
The restorative justice process is dramatically different from the traditional criminal justice system. The traditional criminal justice system asks what laws have been broken and what punishment is deserved by the offender. Restorative justice asks what harm has been done, who is responsible for repairing that harm, and how can that harm be repaired?
RJL uses the Family Group Conference model, as adapted from The Little Book of Family Group Conferences: New Zealand Style by Allen MacRae and Howard Zehr. The Family Group Conference is a decision-making meeting led by trained facilitators involving a face-to-face meeting for victims (or a victim representative) and offenders along with supporters from both sides.
Participation in restorative justice programs is voluntary for victims, as well as offenders. The offender must be willing to accept responsibility for their actions and the harm caused. The victim and their support group must be willing to meet with the offender and their support group to discuss how the offense impacted them and what needs to be done to repair the harm. This facilitated process is centered on making things right for all parties involved while enabling creative solutions not used within the traditional justice system.
Stoll Keenon Ogden PLLC
Retired Judge & Mediator
Deming Malone Livesay & Ostroff
Louis D. Brandies School of Law
Jefferson County Circuit Court
The Dow Chemical Company
As Kentucky’s corrections budget grows, spending in areas like education are adversely impacted. Kentucky spends more than $19,000 per year to house an adult inmate, but only $7,000 to educate a child. And it costs even more to house a juvenile each year, at around $72,000 – making it cheaper to send a kid to college for four years than to juvenile detention for one year. That’s why restorative justice practices are so important to our community. They have been shown to reduce recidivism of offenders and increase victim satisfaction within the judicial process, building a healthy and strong Louisville for years to come.
Several studies of restorative justice programs prove that youth referred to restorative justice programs fared better than those that remained in the traditional court process (prevalence, number of later contacts, seriousness of later behavior, time to first offense). This impact was evident regardless of age at referral, race, gender, urban or rural residence, number of prior official contacts, and the seriousness of current offense.
Jeremy was a good kid dealt a tough hand; growing up without a father in a rough, poor neighborhood. At 17, Jeremy had managed to rise above bad influences until a fateful day in March when 94-year-old Doris left her purse at Jeremy’s table in the restaurant where he worked. Jeremy carried the purse outside to find the woman who had left it behind. Upon stepping outside, his cousin encouraged him to steal the purse. Jeremy made the wrong decision. One could assume that Jeremy would be incarcerated for his crime, but just the opposite occurred. Because of Restorative Justice Louisville (RJL), Jeremy and Doris found reparation and reconciliation together. RJL provides an alternative for kids like Jeremy, by focusing on repairing the harm caused and healing the community. And as for Jeremy and Doris, their lives were transformed in a meaningful way.
Jess vandalized a business causing more than $1,500 in damages. Keith Bruner, the owner of the vandalized business, did not ask Jess to pay him for the damages. Instead, Keith requested that Jess get a job and put $50 each month into a savings account until it reaches $1,500. When Jess turns 18, he will then be able to use the money to attend college. If he does not attend college the funds will return to Keith. Another part of their agreement requires that Jess give back to his community. Keith felt it was important for Jess to experience what is possible if he does not begin to think about his future and what he needs to do to have a chance at a good future – also to learn to care about others who have less.