Kristen Blankley: Restorative Justice in Nebraska

From WFOI Kristen Blankley:

Associate Professor Kristen Blankley (Nebraska) has an update on new restorative justice programs in Nebraska.  Currently, these programs are working with youth offenders, culminating in a victim/youth conference (similar, but not the same as a mediation).  Cases are coming into the program from three sources: 1) directly from schools, 2) on diversion (i.e., pre-adjudication), and 3) probation (post-adjudication).

Restorative justice serves many important public policies.  The process is victim-centered, and gives the victim a greater voice in the criminal justice system than traditional court processes.  Equally important, restorative justice seeks to repair the wrong done to the victim and to keep the youth integrated in society and out of school-to-prison pipeline.

As to the process, the Nebraska model of restorative justice focuses on three questions. First, what happened?  This question considers the vantage of both the youth and the victim.  Second, how has this affected you?  Again, both parties answer this question.  The victim party has the opportunity to discuss the hurt and emotional impact of the offense, and the youth can discuss how the incident affected his or her schooling, relationship with parents, and other effects.  The final question is, how can the situation be made better?  Generally, this discussion involves a conversation about restitution, apologies, and other ways of taking accountability for the wrong.  This model is based on the model developed by Mark Umbreit of the University of Minnesota.

The Nebraska Office of Dispute Resolution completed a pilot project of restorative justice processes in youth offenses in 2016.  The pilot project involved training mediators in restorative justice and working on cases in Omaha, Lincoln, and Scottsbluff (in Western Nebraska).  The pilot involved 70 cases, and 93% of those cases resulted in a reparation agreement.  The compliance rate is high (85%), and participant satisfaction is similarly high.

Looking forward, the Office of Dispute Resolution and the Nebraska mediation centers have secured a grant from the Sherwood Foundation to take this program statewide.  The grant funding will be used to help develop infrastructure at all of the Nebraska mediation centers to offer these services and for the Nebraska Office of Dispute Resolution to monitor these cases at the statewide level.

Kristen M. Blankley
Associate Professor
Director, Robert J. Kutak Center
for the Teaching and Study of Applied Ethics
University of Nebraska College of Law

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