Two experts from the Center for Court Innovation met with Dane County officials Thursday to discuss the restorative justice programs Madison is implementing for 12-to-16-year-olds.
The restorative justice program involves sending certain cases to a court run by trained community members who help to ensure those cases are dealt with in a productive manner, according to Center for Court Innovation official Brett Taylor.
“Some of the cases the restorative justice approach would take on are cases that are really not the best cases the justice system is designed or equipped to handle,” Taylor said.
The cases the restorative justice system would help to address are relatively minor cases involving underlying issues that need to be addressed, rather than singular events that need to be punished, according to Taylor.
“Often there’s a much larger story there than just what happens that got them in front of the court in the first place," said Linda Baird, associate director of Youth Justice Programs. “What’s great about these programs is that they’re able to refer them to services to [address] those underlying issues that may have gotten them there.”
According to Taylor and Baird, there is evidence to indicate that juvenile offenders who go through these programs tend to reoffend at a lower rate than those who do not.
“[Restorative justice] is impacting the justice system at some level by siphoning off some of the lower-level cases that clog up the system. [These cases] never really get responded to in a meaningful way in the justice system,” Taylor said. “It allows the justice system to focus on the more serious cases that [it] is designed to handle.”