Coos Bay Bridge. Photo by Too Far North (Karyn Christner) via Flickr Creative CommonsHere's a story about a restorative justice program embedded in the court system on a tribal reservation in Oregon.

[The] system is known as the Peacegiving Court. [Judge Donald] Costello was part of a team that invented it in Deschutes County, and now it's part of the judicial systems for both the Coquille Indian Tribe and the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Suislaw Indians.

Essentially, this program diverts cases from the criminal justice system into the Peacegiving Court.

The court handles only what a state system would call misdemeanors, mostly dealing with vandalism, theft, person-to-person violence, custodial interference and some drug- and alcohol-related offenses. Any tribal member who commits a federal felony goes to non-tribal court.

The peacegivers are volunteers, and the system costs the tribe almost nothing. By comparison, Whiton estimates incarcerating an offender costs nearly $32,000 a year.

The program is mostly for youth but also some adults. It boasts a recidivism (or re-offense) rate of just 5%, compared with 67% for people who are incarcerated.  The article relays this anecdote:

Joe Ward could tell by the look on his cousin's face he was in trouble. There would be no warnings or second chances this time.

The cousin, a Coquille tribal police officer, stopped Ward in 2004 for driving with a suspended license. Ward had neglected to pay nearly $6,000 in traffic fines. Little did he know, Ward was set to become the poster boy for a new peacegiving process that many tribal members still doubted.

"Joe was really the model case to answer people's questions if this would work," Costello said.

Read the full article written by Tyler Richardson here. (USA Today / Associated Press)

Restorative Works Cover
Restorative Works Year in Review 2023 (PDF)

All our donors are acknowledged annually in Restorative Works.