New Juvenile Justice Program Begins In Salina
- Fri 06:18 AM 10/05/2012
The goal is to confront an offender with consequences of an apparently small crime. Victims have expressed satisfaction at having participation in the justice system and a chance to tell their story to the one who caused the problem.
Some Salina area juvenile offenders will now have to face up to their crimes – and to their victims. Saline County Attorney Ellen Mitchell has authorized referrals of certain juvenile cases to the Salina Initiative for Restorative Justice (SIRJ). At Mitchell’s urging, the program has been in the planning stages for more than a year. It is now funded by a six-month grant from the Salina Regional Health Foundation. Juvenile prosecutor Norman Davidson, Assistant County Attorney, referred the first cases to SIRJ this week.
Similar programs across the country and around the world have had documented success in crafting agreements and reducing the chance that juveniles wind up in trouble again. The goal of the process is to confront an offender with the greater consequences of an apparently small crime. Many victims have expressed satisfaction at having more participation in the justice system and a chance to tell their story – often quite forcefully – to the one who caused the problem.
Davidson will decide which cases to refer to the SIRJ program from Judge Jared Johnson’s courtroom. Davidson will focus on first-time offenders. If the youth participates in the program and successfully completes a “justice plan” – worked out in a mediator-assisted dialogue between victim and offender – Davidson will ask that the case be dismissed, and the youth’s record can remain unblemished. The justice plan will be designed to repair the damage, physical and emotional, caused by the crime. The program costs the offender $50 to participate. Victim participation is voluntary and free.
In August, twenty-one individuals – mediators and other community members – participated in a twelve-hour training program provided by the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR) from Bethel College. Training was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Corrections and hosted by the Saline County Sheriff’s Office. One mediator and one community member will be assigned to facilitate each victim-offender dialogue. Salina Police Department, Community Corrections and the Saline County District Court have expressed their support for the project. The non-mediator community mediators are referred to as co-mediators. One mediator and one co-mediator will be assigned to each case and will meet, first, with the offender, second, with the victim, and then jointly to work out the justice plan.