Restorative Justice Blog

How Poetry Can Lower Recidivism

February 4, 2021
Students admitted to a restorative justice program often must attend an educational seminar, which we at Vantage Pointe provide. These courses aim to improve decision-making skills, including how to avoid using drugs or alcohol. The seminar opens with an analysis and discussion of a poem that addresses the complexities, including the emotions, that attend a crucial decision, possibly a life-changing one. Poetry works great for this purpose because poems recreate so beautifully universal ... Continue Reading

Sanctions vs. Sentences

December 17, 2020
To be sure a “sanction” is a penalty for wrongdoing. The UN imposes sanctions on countries for committing international crimes. But a sanction is also an authorization. A government agency may sanction actions it deems productive or safe. Restorative justice adopts both definitions of the term, like two sides of the same coin.  A “sentence” offers no such duality. True, a person sentenced for a crime may as a result avoid a similar ... Continue Reading

Defendants vs. Respondents

December 16, 2020
In Teen Court and Sentencing Circles “Respondent” is the term we prefer to “defendant.” These students are after all responding by doing the right thing, acting in response to a mistake, to repair the damage their choice may have caused, even, or perhaps especially, if that damage includes their disappointment in themselves. In a Sentencing Circle it is typical, when asked, for respondents to suggest for themselves more sanctions than a Teen Court ... Continue Reading

Begin with the Student’s Strengths

December 14, 2020
Sentencing Circles open with a discussion of the student’s strengths. These provide the Circle the basis for determining the most appropriate sanctions for the student charged. By “appropriate” we mean how the student may best give back to his or her community--as a means of repairing the damage they may have caused.  For example if he or she identifies academics as their strength, the team may lean toward assigning a writing task, an ... Continue Reading

Brain Science Support for Restorative Justice Programs for Teens

November 24, 2020
The National institute for Mental Health recently published “The Teen Brain: 7 Things to Know,” which details the “big and important changes [...] happening in the brain during adolescence.” According to the article, Though the brain may be done growing in size [by our late teen years], it does not finish developing and maturing until [our] mid- to late-20s. The front part of the brain, called the prefrontal cortex, is one of the ... Continue Reading

The Inspiration of Restorative Justice

November 21, 2020
Like the ideal of justice itself, restorative justice programs serve all qualified youth in the greater Cape Fear, regardless of need, circumstances, background, neighborhood, ethnicity, or creed. No child 11-18 years old is turned away who meets admission requirements; in fact all are given every opportunity to succeed.  Most triumph, regardless of their challenges. Success stories include children with special needs, kids who may have fallen victim to gang involvement, or have drug ... Continue Reading

The Aspirations of Restorative Justice

November 17, 2020
Vantage Pointe’s vision is “a community unified by our differences.” This is a standard toward which we believe all people strive. Difference--of belief, of opinion, of experience, background, even difference due to an illegal act--is the great given among human beings. And it may be our most precious attribute. Think of it. The evolution of species, to adapt to changing environments, depends upon difference. So too does the evolution of human society. This ... Continue Reading

How Sentencing Circles Works

November 4, 2020
Sentencing Circles works like Teen Court in that the program’s goal is a student offender's making amends for his or her action. However, rather than a formal hearing in which the student testifies in front of a jury, a Sentencing Circle joins people, adult and student volunteers and, of course, the youth him or herself, in a discussion, a Circle, to decide what sanctions may permit the student to reasonably pursue that ... Continue Reading

How Teen Court Works

October 28, 2020
Teen Court looks and feels like regular court. The hearings even take place in The Judicial Building, in courtrooms where during the day real court cases take place. But there are important differences. Kids referred to the program, first, must admit guilt of their offense. To refer to a previous post, this does not mean the same as admitting regret or remorse. A commitment to growth is, though, required of referrals. The student ... Continue Reading

What about Kids Who Don’t Regret Their Crimes?

October 22, 2020
Not every student referred to a restorative justice program necessarily feels they’ve done something wrong. Even their parents may not feel so. This can be the case for a student charged with simple assault who feels they were only trying to defend themselves. In fact, in such situations the child may have done exactly what their parents had taught them to do. Recently we were referred a student who brought a taser ... Continue Reading