The debate over the future of the juvenile court and the juvenile justice system has historically been between proponents of a retributive, punitive philosophy and advocates of the traditional individual treatment mission. Both approaches have failed to satisfy basic needs of individual crime victims, the community, and juvenile offenders.

The Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ) Model outlines an alternative philosophy, restorative justice, and a new mission, "the balanced approach," which requires juvenile justice professionals to devote attention to:

  • Enabling offenders to make amends to their victims and community.

  • Increasing offender competencies.

  • Protecting the public through processes in which individual victims, the community, and offenders are all active participants.

The BARJ Model responds to many issues raised by the victims' movement, including concerns that victims have little input into the resolution of their own cases, rarely feel heard, and often receive no restitution or expression of remorse from the offender.

The balanced approach is based on an understanding of crime as an act against the victim and the community, which is an ancient idea common to tribal and religious traditions of many cultures. Practitioners have used techniques consistent with this approach for years; however, they have lacked a coherent philosophical framework that supports restorative practice and provides direction to guide all aspects of juvenile justice practice. The BARJ Model provides an overarching vision and guidance for daily decisions.

Juvenile justice professionals, including probation and parole officers, prosecutors, judges, case managers, and victim advocates, recognize the need for juvenile justice system reform. People who work on the front lines of the system are faced daily with the frustration of seeing growing numbers of young people involved in criminal behavior, youth who leave the system with little hope for real change, and countless crime victims and community members who are left out of the process. That frustration has inspired many of these professionals to work toward changing organizational culture, values, and programs to reflect a more balanced and restorative approach to juvenile justice.

The BARJ Model is a vision for the future of juvenile justice that builds on current innovative practices and is based on core values that have been part of most communities for centuries. It provides a framework for systemic reform and offers hope for preserving and revitalizing the juvenile justice system.

Implementation must begin with consensus building among key stakeholders and testing with small pilot projects to develop the model. This evolutionary process can build on existing programs and practices that reflect restorative justice principles, such as victim-offender mediation, family group conferencing, community service, restitution, and work experience.

Purpose of This Document

This document is intended to assist juvenile justice professionals in implementing a BARJ approach in their work. The BARJ mission includes attention to each of three components:

  • Accountability.

  • Competency development.

  • Community safety.

For each of these three components, the Guide for Implementing the Balanced and Restorative Justice Model outlines:

  • Key characteristics of appropriate practices.

  • Promising practice examples, including practice definitions and existing programs.

  • Common problems faced in attempting to implement the model.

  • Possible allies for implementation.

  • Roles for juvenile justice professionals.

  • Expected outcomes.

  • Benefits to juvenile justice professionals.

  • Guiding questions.

Appendix A to this Report includes key resources that expand upon each of the above variables as they relate to each of the three BARJ components of accountability, competency development, and community safety.

The Guide presents practical information and tools to enable juvenile justice professionals to implement the BARJ philosophy and mission. The information in this document is based on the experience of juvenile justice practitioners in several BARJ Project pilot sites and in other jurisdictions where this new vision for juvenile justice has inspired experimentation and testing of new ideas.

The document is a guide only, not a prescription. There is no single "right way" to implement the BARJ Model. Within the general principles and values of restorative justice, implementation may vary based on local resources, traditions, and culture. The process of change toward a balanced and restorative system is one of continual learning and assessment.

The BARJ approach is a way of thinking about how the community responds to crime, not a set of directions. Because practitioners know their own communities and are aware of local resources, values, and cultures, they are the experts in determining how to apply these ideas within their own jurisdictions in collaboration with other stakeholders.

Once the BARJ goals and objectives are understood, practitioners can assess where the greatest opportunities are for taking the first steps. Moving toward a BARJ system is an evolutionary process, taken one step at a time. Local conditions will dictate which first step has the greatest probability of success on which to build further steps.

The Guide provides criteria by which practitioners can judge current or proposed practice in terms of BARJ principles. It also provides examples of appropriate programs and practices. However, these examples can never be definitive, because creative practitioners and communities are continually devising new strategies for achieving BARJ goals.

To effectively evaluate any new or existing practice, practitioners must understand the guiding values of the approach and be familiar with the characteristics of interventions that adhere to restorative justice values. It is not sufficient to know just technique. Practitioners must also understand underlying values and principles.

For a more indepth discussion of the underlying theoretical concepts, see Balanced and Restorative Justice (Program Summary), Balanced and Restorative Justice for Juveniles: A Framework for Juvenile Justice in the 21st Century, and Balanced and Restorative Justice Project Training Guide.

This document provides concrete examples to assist juvenile justice professionals at all levels in examining how their roles can change to facilitate greater victim involvement, community partnerships, and positive development for offenders. For example, probation officers can work more directly with victims of crime by coordinating a victim-offender mediation program. Judges can share decisionmaking with the community by supporting community panels to hear cases. Police officers can collaborate with schools and community members to help set up positive community service projects that allow offenders the opportunity to build valuable competencies. Victim advocates can work with juvenile justice professionals to set up victim impact panels.

The information in this document is intended to stimulate the reader's thinking and to assist in the journey of continual discovery of new possibilities for a balanced and restorative response to crime. Readers are encouraged to use the Guide's framework to design new programs and processes that fit their individual environments.

Overview of the Balanced and Restorative Justice Project

In its 4-year history, the BARJ Project has provided assistance to numerous juvenile justice systems and professionals across the country. Training and technical assistance have been provided in numerous State and local jurisdictions across the United States.

The BARJ Model is gaining support in communities and juvenile justice systems nationwide. A dozen States have balanced approach or restorative justice legislation, another half dozen are reviewing bills that would change their juvenile justice codes, and numerous States and local jurisdictions have adopted restorative justice policies.

Project monographs and other materials have found their way into policy documents at the State level. The importance of this legislation and policy is that it sends a message to local practitioners already interested in implementing restorative justice, giving them a green light to proceed with implementation of these ideas.

Although the scope of the BARJ effort is national, to ensure that all training and technical assistance material was grounded in real-world practice, three primary jurisdictions were chosen that were willing to demonstrate the BARJ Model in their local systems. For the past 3 years, the BARJ Project has targeted developmental assistance toward these three demonstration sites -- Palm Beach County, FL; Dakota County, MN; and Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), PA. Each site has received technical assistance visits, written material, and training both on and offsite. Recently, the project has supported exchanges between managers and senior staff in various jurisdictions that have allowed information sharing between sites. For the past 2 years, the project has also funded a part-time coordinator for each demonstration effort. These individuals have been instrumental in coordinating training, developing local policy and new programs, attracting grant funds for program demonstration, and providing outreach to community and crime victim groups. Each jurisdiction has made measurable progress in moving toward the restorative vision of a balanced approach to community justice.

Previous Contents Next

OJJDP Report: Guide for Implementing the Balanced and Restorative Justice Model NCJ 167887