New legislation happened quietly this year in Washington that affects the juvenile justice system. I knew it was happening, but the legislators I work with wanted to keep it quiet. Sometimes, when a light shines on legislation, people stop doing the right thing and do what they think is politically correct to be re-elected.
The most important part of the legislation may be the addition of restorative justice as an alternative to secure detention:
“Community-based rehabilitation” means one or more of the following: Employment; attendance of information classes; literacy classes; counseling, outpatient substance abuse treatment programs, outpatient mental health programs, anger management classes, education or outpatient treatment programs to prevent animal cruelty, or other services including, when appropriate, restorative justice programs; or attendance at school or other educational programs appropriate for the juvenile as determined by the school district.”
Previously, restorative justice had restricted access. This opens it up for local municipalities to make their own judgment regarding what is good rehabilitation. It also defines restorative justice:
“Restorative justice” means practices, policies, and programs informed by and sensitive to the needs of crime victims that are designed to encourage offenders to accept responsibility for repairing the harm caused by their offense by providing safe and supportive opportunities for voluntary participation and communication between the victim, the offender, their families, and relevant community members.”
This is a big deal. Restorative justice is now codified in Washington state law!
We owe a great deal of thanks to Rep. Roger Goodman for being a tireless advocate of restorative justice. You can send a note of thanks via his assistant at: Derek.Zable@leg.wa.gov