Introduction and Background: Franklin County Community Restorative Circles
Since Franklin County began juvenile detention reform work, referrals and admissions to the Franklin County Juvenile Court have declined. Despite this, there are still a significant number of referrals and admissions of moderate risk juveniles, particularly for misdemeanor offenses. Thus, in 2011, further study was given to integrating restorative justice in Franklin County’s youth diversion program.
In Franklin County, restorative justice circles aim to prevent further Juvenile delinquent behavior by implementing the principles of restorative justice through community recommended interventions that promotes youth accountability and responsibility. Community Restorative Circles now act as an arm to the Court bringing together the juvenile offender and his/her parent(s), the victim, and members of the community. Restorative justice circles address the needs of youth, the victim, and the community by developing a holistic understanding of the youth and the circumstances that led to the offense. Circle volunteers, systems representatives, and others develop a comprehensive, collaborative plan of action to address the specific needs of the youth, the victim, and the community.
Community Restorative Circle (CRC) Program Overview
The Community Restorative Circle (CRC) is a community based, Court operated diversion program designed to provide an alternative response from the juvenile justice system for first time misdemeanor offenders. Community Restorative Circles address the victim’s needs and harms, hold the offender accountable, and factor in the community’s concerns. Community volunteers provide juveniles with the opportunity to repair the harm done to their victims and to make a positive contribution to their own community. (CRC) acts as an arm to the Court bringing together the juvenile offender and his/her parent(s), the victim, and members of the community. The participants discuss the offense, ask questions, and make decisions as to how the offender should take responsibility for his or her actions. These decisions are made in the form of an agreement to be signed by all parties involved. The Community Restorative Circle and Juvenile Court staff then monitor the juvenile’s progress. Successful completion of this diversion process results in the youth not having a formal court record.
Community Restorative Circle Partnerships
Franklin County Juvenile Court partnered with the United Way of Central Ohio to make (CRC) a reality. United Way supported the incorporation of the volunteer training in partnership with the Neighborhood Training Academy at United Way of Central Ohio. In addition, the United Way Neighborhood Partnership Center has served as a resource for volunteer recruitment, engagement and training. Franklin County Juvenile Court obtained funds toward the establishment of these Community Restorative Circles from the Ohio Department of Youth Services (ODYS). United Way provided a one-time award to make the program a reality and has agreed to continue its support and partnership.
With the funds obtained from United Way and (ODYS), the program was able to hire a Juvenile Restorative Justice Diversion Coordinator and enter into a contract with the Family and Youth Law Center (FYLaw) at Capital University Law School to create the (CRC) curriculum utilizing restorative justice practices and to facilitate trainings and technical support for community volunteers in each Circle area.
Community Restorative Circle Projections
There are (3) Community Restorative Circles which have been operational since August 2013 in the areas of Franklinton, the South Side and Weinland Park. A fourth Circle on the Near East Side of Columbus opened in July, 2014. As of July 30, 2014 - (32) cases have been referred to CRC by the Intake/Diversion Counselors, of that number (26) cases have been completed as Successful and (6) Unsuccessful. On June 28, 2014, a New Volunteer Training was held and volunteers were added to all of the Circle areas bringing our total number of volunteers to (45). We are adding (3) new circles in the areas of North Linden, Westerville and Milo Grogan by the end of 2014. With the addition of the (3) new circles, an additional (100) cases are anticipated to be referred by Intake/Diversion Counselors. We have added an additional monthly Circle meeting to the South Side and the Near East Side as a result of the influx of new referrals to those referrals. In 2015, (5) additional circles are planned for the areas of the Far West Side, Hilliard, Grove City, the Far North Side and Southeast.