Why Restorative Justice
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote often of an intrinsic unity binding all humanity. We never feel that more strongly than when we help others, especially people we hardly know. At the heart of restorative justice is the community service students must engage in to complete the program. These experiences reveal to the students how good it feels, indeed how good it is, to be of service to their fellow community members.
This is why kids who complete our restorative justice programs tend not to reoffend. They learn that there are better uses of their time and their energy. This is not to say, however, that these students are getting off easy. Community service is hard work. It takes sacrifice, not just of one’s time and energy. Service work takes you out of your comfort zone. These are programs that families in the community depend upon: food banks, soup kitchens and other philanthropic organizations.
But again it is that intrinsic unity we feel with others in our community that these efforts teach kids. That is the most important lesson. Many feel this strongly enough to continue volunteering even after completing the program. At the very least these kids have a chance to avoid the pitfalls that come with having a criminal record. After they complete the program, whatever stage they may have been in in the juvenile justice system, their charge is dropped. They may get on with their lives more fortified to make smart, responsible decisions.