Restorative Justice Circles is a new diversion program being offered by the Franklin County Juvenile Courts Division. The program follows the restorative justice theory, which is based on the premise of accountability to the victim and to the community. The circles provide juveniles with the opportunity to repair harm done to their victims and to make a positive contribution to their own community. First-time juvenile misdemeanor offenders are first referred to the program from the Family Assessment Intake/Diversion Unit. Youth referred by the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office to the Intake/Diversion Unit are then scheduled to appear, with their parent or guardian, before an Intake/Diversion Officer. Once assessed, the diverted youth may be referred from traditional court to the Restorative Justice Program for participation in a Community Restorative Circle (CRC).
The Community Restorative Circles are composed of a small group of community stakeholders who aim to target the problems of the youth involved by developing a holistic understanding of the juvenile as well as the circumstances that led to the offense. Whenever possible, the victim and their family will be involved in the circles as well, in order to give the victim a voice. The community volunteers, systems and others involved in the circle work to develop a comprehensive and collaborative plan of action that will address the specific problem areas of the youth attending the program. The Restorative Justice Diversion Coordinator then monitors the youth’s progress. Successful completion of this diversion process can result in the youth not having a formal court record.