Balanced and restorative justice (BARJ) is a philosophy based on a set of principles that guide prosecutors as we try to balance the needs of the victim and the community with the needs of juvenile offenders. Restorative justice principles can guide responses to conflicts in many settings, not just those caused by a violation of law. The BARJ model was a concept developed in part by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, in order to make the philosophy of restorative justice applicable to the modern U.S. justice system. BARJ uses restorative justice principles to balance the needs of three parties: offenders, victims, and the community.
The Juvenile Justice Bureau has embraced the principles of BARJ and the philosophy that justice is measured not by how much punishment is meted out, rather, justice is served by repairing harm to the victim and community, and holding the youthful offender accountable while instilling competencies. The Bureau led the way in making BARJ the law in Illinois by amending the purpose and policy clause of Juvenile Court Act to include BARJ language.
The Bureau has spearheaded the process in which first-time or non-violent offenders are diverted from the court process into community-based restorative justice programs.
Bureau supervisors serve on many boards and committees to promote and foster a more effective Juvenile Justice Community. Some of those are: The BARJ Task Force; The City Wide Restorative Justice Committee; The Community Partnership Team; The Redeploy Illinois Board; The Illinois Balanced and Restorative Justice Project Board; The Juvenile Sex Offender Management Board; The Court Culture Implementation Team; The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative; Girls Link, The Gun Violence Prevention Project; The Retail Theft Program and the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice Advisory Board. Juvenile Court prosecutors are increasingly trained in the latest community-based restorative programs so they can make effective screening decisions.
In 2007 the Bureau led the way in promoting BARJ principles by collaborating on the first annual BARJ Week. BARJ Week is a period of education to enhance public awareness of BARJ. It is also a week of celebrating the success of BARJ practices and principles by inviting various officials and community members to an awards reception where youth who have succeeded in restorative programs are honored. We also honor restorative justice community partners who have made a positive difference with troubled youth. Father Dave Kelly and the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation were honored for their outstanding work in bringing together youths of different gangs and backgrounds into healing peace circles and for providing restorative- and competency-building after school-programs for youth. We also honored Robert Spicer and the Community Justice for Youth Institute. Edith Crigler and the Chicago Area Project were recognized for their outstanding leadership in fostering peer juries and peace programs in many county schools. These programs resulted in the diversion of a significant number of youths from juvenile court into restorative peer and peace programs. We honored Susan Garcia Trieschmann and the Evanston Restorative Justice Project (renamed Restorative Justice Evanston) for creating a thriving peer jury program at Evanston Township High School and a strong victim/offender conferencing program with the Evanston Police Department. And, for the first time ever in 2013, we organized the Juvenile Victim Service Awards where young, courageous victims and witnesses were honored for their bravery and dedication to keeping our communities safe.
The Bureau also played a major part in the creation of the Juvenile Intervention and Support Center (JISC). The JISC is a program involving several high crime police districts in Chicago. The program enables youth who are arrested for less serious offenses to be taken to the JISC instead of to the police station. They are then carefully interviewed and screened in an effort to divert them from juvenile court and connect them with a community-based organization that can intervene and help to resolve the issues that led to the arrest.
The purpose and policy of Illinois law is to promote a juvenile justice system based upon Balanced and Restorative Justice. Prosecutors assigned to the Juvenile Bureau are dedicated to finding the best possible outcomes for all of the stakeholders; the victim, the community and the youthful offender. Prosecutors here are therefore constantly learning and training so that they may remain relevant to the needs of the community while effectively and fairly pursuing justice.