The city of Reedley, CA recently implemented an award-winning community partnership to counteract gang violence – one that reaches well beyond the police and courts:
The Community-Oriented Policing Services (COPS) philosophy guides Reedley’s criminal justice process. This approach recognizes that a problem as endemic and far-reaching as gang-related crime has many sources, all of which need to be addressed to accomplish real change. . .
The department launched the Reedley Peace Building Initiative (RPBI) in 2011 as a way for “the community to take care of community.” The program brings together the victim of a crime and the offender with a qualified conflict mediator to help resolve the conflict and reach agreement on how to make amends for the damages caused by the offense. The goal of the process is to awaken awareness of accountability and ultimately to redirect a juvenile offender by providing mentoring and training at the same time that the youth in some way makes restitution for the offense. In this way, it is hoped that the victim receives recognition, the relationship between victim and offender is repaired and the offender makes amends without incurring a permanent criminal record.
The initiative involved partnerships with several community organizations, including groups as diverse as the West Coast Mennonite Central Committee and the Reedley Rotary Club. How is it going? So far, so good:
Simple statistics illustrate the program’s greatest impact. Previously 42 children in a given year could find themselves with criminal records and possibly incarcerated; today that number is down to 12.
“Restorative justice provides a way to build relationships and trust through communication, accountability and honesty,” says Restorative Justice Coordinator John Swenning. “The RPBI continues to save money, save time and save lives.”
Learn more at Western City here.
Contributor: Benjamin Peterson, Pepperdine School of Public Policy, MPP Candidate ’16.