Youth Organizers Meet to Restore Justice and Communities

by Mary C. Piemonte

Restorative justice is a “better alternative” to school suspensions, expulsions and youth incarceration, and would reduce the cost of the “school to prison pipeline,” according to members of the Albany Park Neighborhood Council and The Adler Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice.

Top officials of the two organizations recently talked to youth, organizers, public officials, funders and practitioners about “key challenges and opportunities for expanding the use of restorative justice” programs during the “Restoring Justice, Restoring Communities: Charting a Collective Path Forward” meeting at the Adler School of Professional Psychology on Jan. 28, 2014.

Participants talking about Restoring Justice programs and initiatives at the Adler School of Psychology on Jan. 28, 2014. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte

Speakers at the standing-room-only event talked about their collective visions of restorative justice – including defining what restorative justice would be – and discussed key themes they learned, from conversation and focus groups with other organizers and practitioners throughout the city in furthering restorative justice practices.

Counter-productive polices make expansion of restorative justice an ongoing challenge, according to the host speakers. However, they claimed that restorative justice programs have proven to be effective at reducing the youth prison and detention recidivism rate, school suspensions and expulsions and are able to reduce court and incarceration costs.

Additionally, the speakers said that restorative justice programs create a lasting safety based on trust and respect.  Save money by reducing dependency on detention and have the potential to eliminate disparities based on race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability versus the status quo of a continuing cycle of criminalization and pouring dollars into suppression tactics that degrade community relations.

The speakers added that restorative justice offers the promise of a much more effective way to build safer, stronger communities.

Later in the program, participants broke up in groups to discuss whether restorative justice initiatives can put them on a path to true justice.

Youth, organizers, public officials, funders and practitioners during break out session. photo by Mary C. Piemonte

Youth, organizers, public officials, funders and practitioners talking about restorative justice issues during break out session. photo by Mary C. Piemonte

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The evening program was supported by the Woods Fund of Chicago.

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