Community Restorative Courts
REPAIR HARM REDUCE RISK REBUILD COMMUNITY
No. There is no municipal or criminal judge assigned to the Community Restorative Court (CRC). The community, partnering with the anchor stakeholders and CRC staff process the cases referred to CRC. Approved misdemeanor level offenses are transitioned out of the formal court system and into CRC where a harm reparation process is created to restore the victim and the impacted community.
Restorative justice practices see crime as more than breaking the law—it looks to the harm done to the people, relationships and community. Restorative justice practices require the cooperation and collaboration of the community and the government. Restorative justice focuses on healing the injury caused by harm, balancing effective services for victims and when appropriate, the respondent.
Restorative justice programs exist all over the United States and across the world. Canada, New Zealand, Austria, Japan and several other European nations practice forms of restorative justice. Dane County’s Community Restorative Court takes after successful examples in Red Hook, San Francisco’s Community Justice Center, and Baltimore’s Community Conferencing Center.
Research on restorative justice has found:
a) victims who meet with a respondent are far more likely to be satisfied with the response to their case than those who go through the traditional justice system;
b) after meeting the respondent, victims are significantly less fearful of being re-victimized;
c) respondents who meet with their victim are far more likely to complete their restitution obligation to the victim; and
d) considerably fewer and less serious future crimes are committed by respondents who meet their victim.
The Dane County CRC has 5 goals:
Reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
Efficient case resolution. Participants can have a case resolved more quickly than in the criminal courts.
Community-driven solutions. The community that is affected by the crime gets to direct the plan for repairing the harm.
Reduce burden on criminal courts. The Dane Count CRC has the potential to significantly save both time and money for criminal courts and the agencies that work in them.
Reduce recidivism. By keeping low-level offenders out of the traditional system—and keeping convictions off their record (and off CCAP), the community court removes an obstacle to meaningful participation in the community. As individuals gain a true understanding of the impacts of their actions, they may be less likely to reoffend.
Studies in neuroscience have shown that a young person’s cognitive development continues into this later stage and that their emotional maturity, self-image and judgment will be affected until the prefrontal cortex of the brain has fully developed (guidelines currently state age 25).
CRC accepts two types of referrals from within the justice system. Individuals facing misdemeanor charges are referred through the Dane County District Attorney’s Office. Individuals with a municipal citation are referred by law enforcement agencies. Each of these stakeholders utilizes a department screen process for appropriateness of referral to the CRC program.
Even for perceived “victimless crimes,”, there can be significant harm done to the community. In cases like these, our Peacemakers represent the community to explain how the crime may affect their community.