Juvenile Justice Rehabilitation Through Victim Offender Restitution Restores the Families of Both Victim and Offender

When a juvenile offender is not held accountable for their first offense, which is most like a less serious offense, Danielle Fields, Regent J.D. Candidate 2011, argues that this is a failure of the juvenile justice system.  She writes, "Instead of a wake-up call, the juvenile gets the message that the offense was no big deal.  According to the National Center for Juvenile Justice, juvenile courts have an opportunity to intervene in the lives of a large percentage of youth at a time when problems are apparent and courts have the authority to effect change. 
Early intervention may halt the juvenile’s court career and reduce the drain on the court’s limited resources.  A study by the U.S. Department of Justice found that very young juvenile delinquents have a greater percentage of serious, violent and repeated patterns of offenses than older onset delinquents.  In practice, this means that after probation for a less serious crime, the younger offender is likely to return for a more serious offense in the future. If then the juvenile is incarcerated, the juvenile may emerge with very little competency, less prepared for adult life and reintegration into the community, thus more likely to recidivate.  Other trends in the juvenile justice system, such as lowering the age of accountability and automatic transfers to the adult criminal system has not proven effective. [1][6].  The public safety is not increased by adult incarceration or incarceration as juvenile because in both circumstances, the system has failed to divert children from a life of crime. A system of just desserts and retribution is not accomplishing the goals of public safety, offender accountability and victim restoration. “The problems of juvenile delinquency and violent youth crime cannot be meaningfully addressed until refocus on the underlying causes of juvenile delinquency and provide our children with guidance instead of punishment."
This article argues for the implementation of restorative justice processes as a dispositional alternative following the adjudication of delinquents, with a focus on Virginia juvenile courts. The intent of the juvenile justice system in Virginia is to balance three interests (1) the welfare of the child and the family, (2) the safety of the community and (3) victim’s rights, and the legislature has given judge’s the powers and discretion to protect those interests[2][9].  The code also uses language in the purpose clause to promote the use of diversion programs, protect the family unit and hold offender’s accountable for their actions.
Implementation of a balanced restorative justice approach in the Virginia juvenile court system would serve to balance public safety, accountability and competency development of young offenders while giving a voice to the victims.[3][10]   The goals of (1) restoring the family, (2) protecting the community, and (3) victim restoration would be accomplished. 
Section I will set the stage for restorative justice model in the juvenile justice system by establishing the traditional role of the state as parens patraie, exploring the current status of the juvenile justice system, and calling for a change.  Section II will examine the philosophy of the restorative justice movement, and the existing movements internationally and at the state and local level. This article concludes in Section III that family group conferencing should be a vital component of the juvenile justice system because it successfully balances the three interests of the Virginia purpose clause and intervenes into offender’s life, halt their court career and prepare them to become a member of the community.  Section III suggests ways to implement restorative justice programs in the Virginia juvenile court system by the legislature, the juvenile’s prosecutor, defense counsel and the juvenile court judges."
This article, its thesis and its proposal goes a long way toward family restoration for juvenile offenders.  Read the entire article here.  

[4][6] Jacqueline Cuncannan, Only When They’re Bad: The Rights and Responsibilities of Our Children, 51 Wash. U. J. Urb. & Contemp. L. 273, 300, (1997) “Given the available information on child’s cognitive development, this trend is also morally unsound.  Furthermore, the presumptions that society is willing to make regarding a delinquent child’s legal capacity are not consistent with the presumptions made regarding non-delinquent children.” and Cynthia Conward, The Juvenile Justice System: Not Necessarily in the Best Interests of Children, 33 New Eng. L. Rev. 39, 49 (1998) “Florida was one of the first states to inaugurate automatic transfer policies.  Researchers, however, have found that by every scientific measure that they used, re-offending was greater among juveniles who were transferred to adult court as opposed to those charged with similar crimes in juvenile justice system….lead them to conclude that that automatic transfer in FL has had little deterrent value nor has it enhanced public safety.” Id.
[5][9]Va. Code Ann. § 16.1-227 (2010); see also, Tross v. Commonwealth, 21 Va. App. 362, 370-71 (Va. Ct. App. 1995) and Hairfield v. Commonwealth, 7 Va. App. 649, 655 (Va. Ct. App.1996). 

[3][10] Sacha M. Coupet, What to Do with the Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing : The Role of Rhetoric and Reality About Youth Offenders in the Constructive Dismantling of the Juvenile Justice System, 148 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1303, 1346 (2000).

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