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Balancing Client Needs: Restorative Juvenile Justice

ne sign of hope for linking victims' needs and involvement to a revitalized juvenile justice mission has been the rise in interest in restorative justice and the "balanced approach" (Bazemore, G., and M. Umbreit, 1995; Bazemore, G., and S. Day, 1996). Restorative justice provides a new "lens" for viewing the problem of crime and a new paradigm for thinking about the justice response to criminal behavior. Rather than the question of guilt and what should be done to punish or treat the offender, restorative justice suggests that the most important fact about crime is that it causes harm to individuals and communities. "Justice" should, therefore, focus on the repair of this harm (Zehr, H., 1990).

The view of restorative justice and the balanced approach is that justice is best served, both practically and conceptually, when the needs of the victim, the community, and the offender are all met and each is involved in the process to the greatest extent possible.

The balanced approach was developed to serve as a guide for implementing a restorative vision in juvenile justice systems. The balanced approach provides a road map to help administrators achieve the following:

Attain balance in efforts to meet community needs for safety.

Repair victim harm, set tolerance limits, and provide consequences for crime (impose sanctions to hold offenders accountable).

Provide rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders into the community (Maloney, D., D. Romig, and T. Armstrong, 1988; Bazemore, G., and S. Day, 1996).

The restorative justice view is that true balance is achieved only when the needs of victims, offenders, and the community are considered in each case and within the system as a whole.

Restorative justice elevates the role of the victim in the juvenile justice process by giving high priority to victim involvement and reparation (Bazemore, G., and M. Umbreit, 1995). For years, juvenile justice systems focused only on the needs and risks of offenders, leaving victims with a lot of catching up to do. Most juvenile justice systems will need to give primary attention to increasing their responsiveness to the needs of crime victims. While advocating for the rights of victims and their involvement in the system, restorative justice also concerns itself with the needs of offenders and communities. In fact, restorative justice recognizes three stakeholders or coparticipants in any "justice" process—the victim, the offender, and the community (Zehr, H., 1990; Van Ness, D., 1993).

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Victims, Judges, and Juvenile Court Reform
Through Restorative Justice
October 2000
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