Chapter 3: Balanced and Restorative Juvenile Corrections
Developing a Balanced and Restorative Justice Approach to Juvenile Corrections

Just as a house cannot be built by starting with the roof instead of the foundation, Balanced and Restorative Justice approaches will not be successful unless the change process is undertaken appropriately. The process is represented by building blocks in Figure 3:c, illustrating that in order to have a stable and effective approach, the foundation must be laid first or the end product is likely to be out of balance.

Figure 3:c Building Blocks of Balanced and Restorative Justice

Involve Key Stakeholders

As with every type of change process mentioned in this manual, moving to a Balanced and Restorative Justice approach in juvenile corrections requires the participation of key stakeholders, including:

  • Line and administrative/management personnel of the juvenile justice agency or jurisdiction.

  • Representatives from other parts of the juvenile justice system (e.g., judges, law enforcement, prosecutors).

  • Community representatives from other systems and agencies and the general public.

To achieve the type of change needed, it is often best to engage both supporters and skeptics of the new approach and to work toward consensus among all participants rather than mere majority rule. For Balanced and Restorative Justice principles and programs to be truly effective, there must be substantial commitment from all stakeholders.

This process is likely to be very time consuming. A program or agency will not be using a retributive or rehabilitative approach one day and then change to a Balanced and Restorative Justice approach the next. The change process will be gradual, and most changes will be phased in over time as staff and other stakeholders learn about and accept the philosophical perspective of the approach.

Values, Vision, Mission, and Goals

Develop Values, Vision, Mission, and Goals Consistent With Balanced and Restorative Justice Principles

As shown in Figure 3:c, values, vision, mission, and goals are the foundation of the change process. Without being firmly grounded in the principles of Balanced and Restorative Justice, modification of programs or development of new programs is likely to continue old paradigms with new names. This stage is likely to be the most difficult part of the process, because people often have trouble changing their points of view or seeing possibilities outside familiar frameworks.

There are several practical ways to help stakeholders examine present approaches and understand the need for change, including the following:

  • Provide information illustrating problems with current approaches (e.g., costs incurred and suffering caused by youths' property and violent crimes, high costs for incarceration of youth in proportion to the total youth served, frequent recidivism among retributive and rehabilitative approaches).

  • Share examples of Balanced and Restorative Justice programs and how they are perceived (e.g., although more evaluation is needed, satisfaction among victims, offenders, and community members appears strong with Balanced and Restorative Justice approaches).

  • Ask victims to talk about their experiences with retributive or rehabilitative forms of juvenile justice.

  • Engage community members in discussions about juvenile justice issues and how they would like the system to change.

  • Ask leaders of Balanced and Restorative Justice programs to speak about their experiences.

  • Provide reading material on Balanced and Restorative Justice.

  • Obtain and show videos that illustrate the use of Balanced and Restorative Justice practices and programs.

For additional ideas and resources about initial approaches, see Guide for Implementing the Balanced and Restorative Justice Model, by Kay Pranis (1998a).

Planning, Development, and Community Involvement

Formulate Plans

At this stage, it is important to continue involvement of community members and engage additional participants. One approach at this phase is to enlist committees to work on and develop plans for various goals. For example, committees might explore ways to implement the three goals of the balanced approach: accountability, competency development, and community protection. These, or other, committees might examine ways of developing cooperative working relationships with other youth-serving systems, such as schools, health and mental health treatment, sports and recreation, faith communities, and employment resources. It is often useful to ask participants to develop the most ideal plans regardless of cost or other constraints so that no creative possibilities are overlooked. Often these have to be scaled down for effective implementation, but sometimes resources can be found when people envision these possibilities.

Implementation and Activities


After plans have been formulated, programs should be initiated. Priorities need to be set that balance the need for change with available resources and community acceptance. It is likely that implementation will occur in small increments. A total system of Balanced and Restorative Justice will take years to implement.



Strategies for evaluation need to begin at the planning stage. Both process and outcome evaluations are vital. Process measures determine whether the program was implemented appropriately. For example: Were victims included? Were community members included? Were youth kept in the least restrictive environment possible?

Outcome measures seek to ascertain the results of the program or intervention. In a Balanced and Restorative Justice approach, as much, if not more, attention should be given to measuring outcomes for victims and the community as is given to focusing on offender outcomes. If the first obligation is to repair the harm done to victims, measures might include the amount of restitution paid and victim satisfaction with the process. Community members might be polled to determine whether they feel more secure as a result of their greater levels of involvement. Offender changes that increase victim and community safety also should be measured, such as amount of time spent in structured, supervised activities; decreases in use of psychoactive substances; and improvements in school and work attendance. Measures of such items as the amount of punitive sanctions administered or offenders' improvement in self-esteem (unless that is a result of greater competencies and satisfaction from taking responsibility for one's action) are of lesser value in a Balanced and Restorative Justice approach.

Information from evaluations must always feed back to the beginning of the process, as shown in Figure 3:c. If processes and outcomes are not consistent with the values, vision, mission, and goals that were developed, it is important to reassess them or the types of programs and practices that were developed to determine where further change is needed.

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Jurisdictional Technical Assistance Package for Juvenile Corrections Report - December 2000