Legislature approves restorative justice for juvenile offenders
March 1, 2012 | By Washington House Democrats
OLYMPIA—The state Senate voted 48-0 today to authorize a new evidence-based judicial option that encourages juvenile offenders to take responsibility for their actions and promotes a better understanding of how crimes impact victims.
The Senate action on the bill sponsored by state Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland) follows a unanimous House vote in February and sends the bill to Gov. Chris Gregoire for her approval.
Restorative justice brings together the victim, the juvenile, their families, and relevant community members to encourage the juvenile to accept responsibility for repairing the harm caused by the juvenile’s offense. The program must be sensitive to the needs of crime victims.
“Washington is a national leader in using evidence-based strategies to reduce juvenile crime, and all of the evidence proves that restorative justice is very effective at changing the behavior of juveniles and making victims feel whole again,” said Goodman, who serves as Vice Chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
The Goodman bill would provide the first definition of the concept of “restorative justice” in Washington state law.
Restorative-justice programs can save victims and taxpayers more than $7,000 per case in reduced crime and criminal-justice costs, according to the Washington State Institute of Public Policy. The Institute has provided the research behind much of the state’s progress in implementing evidence-based crime-fighting strategies.
Evidence-based strategies have helped Washington state to cut juvenile crime by 40 percent since the year 2000.
Goodman’s House Bill 1775 allows satisfactory completion of a restorative-justice program to satisfy diversion agreements made with juvenile offenders—but only when participation by the victim and all parties is voluntary.
Restorative-justice agreements, like other diversion agreements, would not be an option for violent crimes or felonies.
“It’s amazing that when an offender in a restorative-justice program takes responsibility for a crime and says he’s sorry, the victim almost always says the offender is forgiven,” said Goodman. “Instead of fueling a cycle of increasing alienation and crime, these programs encourage a cycle of restoration that reconnects the offender with the community and reduces repeat offenses.”