March 19th 2021 RESTORATIV WEEKLY: Good News from the world of RJ

We like to share good news from the world of RJ and here are three stories that caught our attention this week:

1.  FAIRPORT, N.Y - A joint effort between Fairport Police and Roberts Wesleyan College will focus on reconciliation instead of punishment.

The initiative would look at cases with first-time offenders, non-violent offenders and juveniles. With input from the victim, a social worker will determine an alternative, such as counseling or community service. The offender will have a formal agreement with the police department and will avoid court if they complete the requirements of the agreement.

"We want to promote a system that makes the victim whole, the community whole, and the offender whole," said Samuel Farina, Fairport Police chief. "We’re trying to prevent people from being unnecessarily harmed by the system that don’t need to be and if we could do that prior to them entering the system, I think that’s a win-win for us."

2. Madison’s public safety committee formally endorsed restorative justice programs currently in place and encouraged the police department to expand them whenever possible.    

Restorative justice is an approach that asks the person responsible for the crime to communicate with those the individual may have harmed. It’s also a “proven tool” to keep youth who commit minor offenses from entering the criminal justice system, according to the resolution adopted unanimously by the Public Safety Review Committee.  

“I thought that it was important for everyone to know that this program is taking place,” Ald. Shiva Bidar, District 5, said. 

Madison police officers can refer youth under the age of 17 to the restorative justice program instead of going through municipal court. In 2019, MPD referred 641 youth to the program. Of the referrals, 83% were for youth of color, and 505 youth opted into the program. 

3. Oakland architect Deanna Van Buren's passion for restorative justice manifests in her work

Even though Van Buren had never heard of the concept before, the idea that communities could create safe spaces to address wrongdoing while giving voice and healing to those harmed proved a revelation.

“This is aligned with my values,” she remembered thinking. “I was inspired. I’ve been doing this work ever since.”

Van Buren, one of just 500 licensed Black female architects in the country, is the co-founder and executive director of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces, or DJDS, an architecture and real estate development nonprofit based in Oakland.