Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Reintroduction of the Restorative Justice in Schools Act

Support Programs to End the “School-to-Prison” Pipeline

Become an supporter of the Restorative Justice in Schools Act. Below is the letter Congressman Steve Cohen sent to his colleagues asking for support for the bill.

Dear Colleague,

We encourage you to cosponsor legislation that promotes providing school personnel (teachers and counselors) with essential training that has the potential to reduce youth incarceration.

Restorative justice is an innovative approach to conflict resolution which shows promising results throughout the country and abroad. It focuses on repairing the harm caused by crime and conflict rather than simply punishing the offender. Too often, we rely on harsh punishments, like incarceration, which prove to be expensive and counter-productive in many cases, especially when applied to youth offenders. Many school systems involve the police for non-violent incidents and feed the “school-to-prison” pipeline. More importantly, it is a victim centered process that gives the person harmed an opportunity to have a voice in the process and subsequent healing. There are many studies which show the cycle of victims becoming the aggressors when a process is not available that allows healing.

Restorative justice processes and practices can serve as a cost-effective and useful alternative. It holds juvenile offenders accountable to their victims and their community, and helps them understand the impact of their actions. It establishes a non-adversarial process that brings together offenders, their victims, and other interested parties to ask three major questions:

· What is the nature of the harm resulting from the crime?

· How should this harm be repaired?

· And who is responsible for the repair?

Our bill allows local education agencies to use ESEA funding for key school personnel such as teachers and counselors to receive training in restorative justice and conflict resolution. This training will provide them with the essential tools to address minor student conflicts.

To be an original cosponsor of this bill, please contact Reisha Phills of Rep. Cohen’s Staff at or call X53265.

Organizations in support of this legislation include:

* Center for Justice & Peacebuilding, Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, VA
* Center for Restorative Justice, Suffolk University, Beacon Hill, MA
* Center for Restorative Practices Public Advocacy Center at Touro Law Center, Central Islip, NY
* Community Conferencing Center in Baltimore, MD
* Community Justice Institute, Florida Atlantic University
* F.U.T.U.R.E. Foundation Youth Services, Inc., Ford Heights, IL
* Institute for Youth and Justice Studies, Florida Gulf Coast University
* International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP)
* Kansas Institute for Peace & Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR), Bethel College, North Newton, KS
* Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, Memphis, TN
* Outcome's Inc., Albuquerque, New Mexico
* Restorative Solutions, Lafayette, Colorado
* Turning Point Partners, Memphis, TN


Steve Cohen