By Karen Barbee, Restorative Justice Coordinator

Please join us on April 17 from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. for a Restorative Justice Celebration.  We will recognize the community members whose volunteer time has been immense and invaluable, share where the RJ program is currently, celebrate the history and look towards the future, and have information for those who would like to volunteer. 

Albert Einstein once said, “All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded to the individual.” 

When a child is born our dreams and hopes take wing. We begin paving a path of opportunity for this child to thrive and grow.  When this child begins walking, we expect there will be tumbles, and we help by encouraging and praising the effort despite the fall. 

Until the day they fall in a different way than that of years gone by.  When our children fall because of their choices, ones that carry serious consequences, what do we do?  What does the community do when a child falls by the choice to vape or steal?

Do we offer them an opportunity to develop, to learn from what they have done?  Do we offer them the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions and to address the harm that resulted?

At Youth Zone, we help youth learn and grow strong from mistakes they have made, including those could have a serious, lifelong implications of a criminal record.  One way we provide this support is through the Restorative Justice Process. This process leads the youth to take responsibility for and speak to what they did, to listen to the victim(s) talk about the impact and harm, and finally to recognize how their choice also harmed themselves.  It ends with a contract of actions the youth will take to mend the harm done.  It is an opportunity to support healing for the victims and offer a path forward for the offending youth.

It is vital to understand that the Restorative Justice process is anything but the easy way out of trouble.  Rather than having an authority figure hand down a punishment, the youth must have the strength of self to admit and own the mistake made and then to have the courage and compassion to do something about it. 

Youth Zone has been offering restorative justice practices since 1993.  In the last two years the number of successful restorative justice circles has more than doubled, going from 27 to more than 80.  We offer Restorative Justice Circles from Parachute to Aspen and work with law enforcement agencies, schools, and families.  This is made possible with the support of the many people who volunteer their time, voice and skill by sitting in and facilitating circles.

Please call Karen Barbee or Ashley Atencio for more information:  970-945-9300.