This year Colorado has passed yet another law to advance the use of restorative justice across the state. With this law Colorado State House Representative Pete Lee and State Senator Linda Newell continue to build upon past legislative victories. They enjoy the support of many grassroots efforts as well as the work of a wide range of schools, police, probation and prison workers, and community groups across the state.
This new law will initiate an RJ fund via a $10 surcharge on offender fees. These dollars will help seed new pilot projects and develop research and evidence on the value of restorative justice. The money will also support a position for a state RJ Coordinator that supports the State RJ Council and RJ programs around the state.
Perhaps most importantly the new law will provide the opportunity to almost all juveniles referred to the justice system.
I think it's worth noting the quality of this concise and pure definition of restorative justice, which is included at the very beginning of the law:
Restorative justice practices means practices that emphasize repairing the harm caused to victims and the community by offenses. Restorative justice practices include victim-offender conferences, family group conferences, circles, community conferences, and other similar victim-centered practices. Restorative justice practices are facilitated meetings attended voluntarily by the victim or victim's representatives, the victim's supporters, the offender and the offender's supporters and may include community members. By engaging the parties to the offense in voluntary dialogue, restorative justice practices provide an opportunity for the offender to accept responsibility for the harm caused to the victim and community, promote victim healing, and enable the participants to agree on consequences to repair the harm, to the extent possible, including but not limited to apologies, community service, reparation, restoration, and counseling. Restorative justice practices may be used in addition to any other conditions, consequences, or sentence imposed by the court.
The law, which currently awaits the signature of the governor, can be read here.
To read more about Colorado's history with restorative justice, click here, where you will also find other links to older stories.
Additionally, last year Colorado passed a bill to end so-called zero tolerance policies in schools.