Since 2007, West Oakland Middle School has eliminated violent fights and expulsions and reduced suspension rates by more than 75 percent.
In a talk dubbed “Surviving the System: Keeping Youth of Color in School and in the Community,” members of Restorative Justice of Oakland Youth (RJOY) will speak tonight about possibly implementing an unorthodox yet effective model of deterrence to keep Santa Barbara youth out of trouble.
RJOY’s Executive Director, Fania Davis, will discuss the principles and application of restorative justice in schools, communities, and in the juvenile justice system.
Restorative justice is an approach that focuses on the needs of the victims and offenders instead of the need to satisfy punishment assigned by law. Victims of crimes are given a direct role while offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions (i.e. returning stolen money, apologizing, or doing community service).
“Youth learn compassion and empathy, even when the victim is not matched, and these are critical factors if a youth is to turn his or life around and become a positive member of society,” Davis said in an e-mail.
Restorative justice is typically implemented to all crimes except those involving homicide. In Oakland, Davis said, restorative diversion has been enforced amongst juveniles charged with everything from arson, assault, and burglary.
Currently, there is a program implemented at the Carpinteria High School’s Academy of Healing Arts. RJOY members, in addition to hosting discussions at UCSB tomorrow, will address the Santa Barbara School Board sometime today about possibly expanding the strategy to other county schools.
Restorative justice could also save money.
According to a study released in 2008, for every one dollar spent on restorative justice programs in the criminal justice system, $8 was saved. Oakland restorative diversion program spends less than 5 percent of what the county spends to incarcerate a juvenile for an average stay.
The talk will begin at 6:30 p.m. and will be held at 721 Laguna Street.