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Restorative Justice History and Thrive’s work with EAP

 



Have you heard of restorative justice? If not, it’s about time you learned! Historically, the values and principles of this type of justice are steeped in many indigenous cultures worldwide. Modern practice of restorative justice can be traced back to the 1970s, when it emerged as an alternative to common Western justice practices that, frankly, weren’t working. 


The criminology practitioner and theorist Howard Zehr, now commonly referred to as the “grandfather of restorative justice”, was a pioneer in the 1970s who developed frameworks for communities to utilize bringing a modern interpretation of restorative justice to the mainstream. 


In Zehr’s words, “[Restorative Justice] is basically common sense – the kind of lessons our parents and foreparents taught – and that has led some to call it a way of life. When a wrong has been done, it needs to be named and acknowledged. Those who have been harmed need to be able to grieve their losses, to be able to tell their stories, to have their questions answered – that is, to have the harms and needs caused by the offense addressed. They – and we – need to have those who have done wrong accept their responsibility and take steps to repair the harm to the extent it is possible.” (zehr-institute.org)


So, how does this play out in the real world? Communities across the world have taken the concepts of restorative justice and imbued them into their local justice systems. Though these programs do often include encounter programs between victims and offenders, they also include school disciplinary programs, religious bodies dealing with wrongdoing and whole societies attempting to imbue these practices on a large scale. 


What does restorative justice look like in Deschutes County? 


The Emerging Adult Program is the Deschutes County restorative justice program that is run through the District Attorney’s Office. It is the only restorative justice program in Deschutes County and Central Oregon.

 

What is EAP and how did Thrive get involved / how is Thrive involved? 


The Emerging Adult Program is a pre-charge diversion program for young adults ages 18-24. It is a voluntary program that requires the young adults to accept responsibility through restorative justice circles with community facilitators. In these circles they develop and complete a personalized accountability plan that helps them restore the harm that was done to the community. The duration of the program is 6 months and if a participant graduates the program, the offense(s) will be removed from their record. 


Throughout the participants' time in the program they are also assigned a case manager who helps them access resources and stay on track with their accountability plan. The District Attorney’s office contracts with Thrive Central Oregon to provide this case management support. Other agencies that are partners of the program are Community Solutions of Central Oregon, Deschutes Defenders, Central Oregon Inter-governmental Council (COIC), and Deschutes County Behavioral Health Services Intensive Youth Services.


The EAP launched in 2021 as a pilot initiative for 13 young adults. In September 2022 seven participants had successfully completed the pilot and four were still actively engaged. In September of 2022, the DA’s office was awarded a restorative justice grant from the Criminal Justice Commission to expand the program to 50 young adults. As of the beginning of 2024, there have been a total of 42 participants enrolled and 21 of them have graduated from the program.


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