Balanced and Restorative Justice Practice: Community Safety

Community safety in the BARJ Model refers to both immediate and long-term safety. Achieving community safety requires practices that reduce risk and promote the community's capacity to manage behavior. Balanced and restorative community safety is not focused only on short-term external control of individual juvenile offenders. It requires equal attention to working with adults and youth to change behavior. Reducing risk often focuses on individual offenders, but building community capacity to manage behavior focuses on adults and organizations within the community. Community safety is achieved when community members live in peace, harmony, and mutual respect and when citizens and community groups feel that they personally can prevent and control crime.

Many strategies used for accountability and competency development goals can also contribute to community safety goals. For example, community service, through structuring time and increasing the juvenile's investment in the community, contributes to community safety. Most forms of competency development involve structured activities with adult supervision, which reduce the opportunity to offend. Accountability strategies emphasize taking responsibility for behavior, which reinforces internal behavior control -- the most effective way to achieve long-term community safety. A major goal of competency development strategies is to establish a place of value for the juvenile in the community that creates an incentive for abiding by the norms of the community. Therefore, the community safety goal is dependent upon effective accountability and competency development strategies.

Characteristics of Restorative Community Safety

  • The opportunity to commit offenses is restricted by community surveillance or by involving known juvenile offenders in structured, supervised, and productive activities.

  • Juvenile justice professionals use a consistent continuum of sanctions in response to a juvenile offender's failure to comply with supervision conditions.

  • The level of restriction matches the level of risk(i.e., the higher the risk, the more time is structured).

  • Response to breaches of safety measures is swift and focused.

  • Strategies do not rely solely on the juvenile justice system but engage the community in protecting itself (e.g., crime watch, block clubs, and mentoring).

  • Behaviors associated with the risk of delinquency for a particular individual are monitored (e.g., drug testing).

  • Community safety interventions do not unduly restrict the agency's attainment of goals related to accountability and competency development.

  • Juvenile justice professionals seek to better understand a community's fear of young people and develop strategies that involve youth and adults in collaborative problem solving.

  • To improve community safety programs, offender behavior is carefully monitored by professionals and other adults in the community.

  • Strategies include working with schools to reduce violence and promote mediation, conflict resolution, parenting training, school safety, and restorative practices.

  • To build the community's capacity for controlling and preventing crime, strategies include working with churches, synagogues, mosques, schools, and civic and community groups in education, mentoring, and positive youth development.

  • Youth connections to positive community members are strengthened.

  • Community members know each other, mutually agree about behavioral tolerance limits, and work together to prevent crime.

  • Interventions do not increase the risks to the community from juvenile offenders. For example, interventions should not escalate anger, model unhealthy power and control dynamics, establish unhealthy peer groups, or increase a youth's isolation from conventional community members. In other words, interventions should do no further harm.

To put restorative community safety practices into a broader perspective, Table 3 illustrates a range of juvenile justice community safety interventions from least to most cost effective.

Table 3. Range of Community Safety Interventions for Use by Juvenile Justice Professionals
Type of Prevention
Cost Effectiveness
Tertiary Prevention

  • Incarceration.

  • Surveillance.

    • Electronic monitoring.

    • Tracking.

    • Random drug testing.
Reduce short-term juvenile offending Low cost effectivenes.
Secondary Prevention

  • Continuum of graduated sanctions: "progressive offending response system."

  • Structuring juvenile offenders' time in competency development, reparative activities.

    • "Natural surveillance" and community guardians.

    • Employers.

    • Educators.

    • Relatives.

    • Mentors.
Reduce long-term offending Medium cost effectiveness
Primary Prevention

  • Community problem solving.

  • Mediation and dispute resolution.

  • Capacity building.

  • New roles and leadership experiences for all youth.
Prevention High Cost Effectiveness

Restorative Community Safety Practice Definitions

Juvenile Offender-Focused Community Safety Practice: Graduated Community-Based Surveillance

Restorative community safety practice is based on the belief that youth who have strong connections to their communities and who care about the people in their neighborhoods are less likely to offend. Wherever possible, restorative community safety supports creating relationships between youth and members of the community that inhibit offending.

Certain young offenders may require incarceration; however, restorative community safety seeks to increase opportunities for youth to remain in the community. Juvenile justice professionals can implement any number of the community-based surveillance measures defined below in relation to the severity of the offense and the risk posed by a particular youth.

Unlike traditional incarceration, the restorative community safety practices defined below that feature community-based surveillance all serve to structure the time of juveniles, provide adult supervision, and support relationships between youth and the community. The goals of each of the defined practices are to (1) limit the opportunities for youth to reoffend and (2) strengthen rather than sever connections to their community.

Increasingly, juvenile justice professionals are finding that supervision can be most efficiently accomplished in structured group settings. For example, working with youth in education programs, service crews, and victim-awareness, competency development classes provides an effective alternative to individual counseling and surveillance.

  • Monitored School Attendance. To ensure that juvenile offenders attend classes, monitors or counselors visit schools daily to check on attendance, behavior, and academic performance. Restorative juvenile justice programs place a high priority on a youth's educational performance. Monitoring is one way to ensure that performance standards are met, thereby helping juvenile offenders develop competencies. Monitoring also serves to structure a juvenile's time under adult supervision and reduce the opportunity for new offenses.

  • Monitored Employment Attendance. Job attendance may be monitored by an offender's employer and reported to his or her probation officer. Monitoring involves the community (employer) in supervising and structuring the juvenile's time. Juveniles who maintain good work attendance gain skills and earn income that can be used to pay restitution to crime victims.

  • Monitored Program Attendance. Depending on the program, attendance is monitored by juvenile justice professionals, community volunteers, mentors, or program facilitators. Monitoring ensures that youth are participating in positive activities and limits their chances to reoffend.

  • Supervised Community Work Service. A supervised structured work experience for youth, designed to build relationships with community members, serves the community, builds offender competencies, and also serves community safety goals by providing adult supervision and strengthening ties to the community. Community work service offers youth the opportunity to be valued by others for their contributions.

  • Supervised Recreation. Supervised recreation is another means of intensive monitoring of offender behavior and serves to deter offending. Supervised recreation helps youth to develop appropriate recreational and relational skills, such as sportsmanship and conflict resolution, and good health.

    An additional component of supervised recreation is participation in cultural events. Pride in their culture and community enables youth to think more critically about how an offending behavior might show disrespect to self, family, and community. Participation may include, but not be limited to, attending movies, sporting events, and other cultural events. These outings expose youth to various music, art, theater, and other educational experiences in the community and help shape positive values and community pride. Participation is supervised by juvenile justice professionals and community volunteers.

  • Community Guardians. An adult community member assumes responsibility for monitoring some juvenile offender activities. For example, a community guardian may escort or chaperone juveniles attending cultural or recreational events. Community guardians provide adult mentoring and supervision and foster relationships and a sense of belonging to the community.

  • Family Monitoring. Offender families monitor associated behaviors (e.g., substance abuse, anger, and withdrawal) and report to juvenile justice professionals. This practice limits a youth's opportunity to reoffend and helps build competency for both the juvenile offender and his or her family. Through assessment, the agency identifies service needs that can provide support for enhancing family competency in areas of setting limits, interacting with schools, supporting their children's involvement in successful activities, and developing other positive parenting approaches that promote competency in the youth and reduce the risk of subsequent delinquent behavior.

  • Day Reporting Centers. As an alternative to secure facilities or residential placement, offenders are allowed to remain in their homes overnight and must report to a day reporting center for structured programming during the day. The program may include education, skill building, tutoring, community service, or employment activities.

  • Electronic Monitoring. Offenders are monitored by means of an electronic device that is usually worn around the ankle. The most common devices transmit a signal that can be received by a probation officer when driving by a youth's residence, school, or place of employment, or the signal may be connected to a residential phone line. Other forms of monitoring systems are available.

    Electronic monitoring enables probation officers and others working with juvenile offenders to maintain geographic awareness of a youth whose movements or activities may be restricted to certain locations or environments, such as when under house arrest.

  • House Arrest With Random Checks Performed by Juvenile Justice Staff or Others. Sentencing to house arrest allows a juvenile offender to return to his or her home but restricts movement in the greater community. Random checks, performed by juvenile justice staff, volunteers, or others, are conducted through electronic monitoring that identifies the youth's location.

  • Random Urinalysis Conducted by Juvenile Justice Staff or Others. Random urinalysis is conducted to monitor for offending behavior. If testing indicates a violation, juvenile justice professionals intervene. Tests are often conducted randomly on offenders whose offenses are related to drug use. Random testing acts to deter offending behavior while youth are being supervised.

For youth who do not fulfill their obligations to repair the harm that they caused to victims of crime and the victimized community, who continue to offend, or who pose a high risk to others, residential placement or confinement in a secure facility may beused.

  • Residential Placement. Offending youth are sent to an out-of-home placement in a residential facility that may include release during the day for supervised activities.

  • Confinement in a Secure Facility. The traditional lockup facility is used for highest risk youth and those who repeatedly fail to comply with key obligations and responsibilities.

Community-Focused Community Safety Practice

The following community-focused community safety practices require the building of partnerships and involvement of community members.

  • Partnerships With Community Police. To assist with juvenile offender surveillance, parental support, and mentoring efforts, community members in partnership with law enforcement and probation serve as role models to aid the youth in fulfilling their obligations under restorative justice.

  • "Beat Probation" or "Neighborhood Supervision." Probation agents are assigned to geographical areas (neighborhoods) instead of to caseloads that are scattered throughout a city. The juvenile justice professional thereby views the community as his or her client or consumer of services. This practice encourages the development of community partnerships between juvenile justice professionals and community members that allow the professionals to more effectively join with the community in working with offenders to help prevent recidivism and promote community connections. Whenever possible, juvenile justice professionals assist the community in addressing underlying problems beyond the individual offender (a problem-oriented versus incident-driven approach).

    Walter Dickey, in Community Justice: Striving for Safe, Secure, and Just Communities (1996), characterizes major community concerns as often including:

    • Situational crime prevention (i.e., monitoring hot spots where youth often appear, such as shopping malls).

    • Street order and quality of life.

    • Intimidating gangs.

    • Apartment complexes as sources of disorder, such as drug traffic.

    • Repeat victimization.

    • Drug houses.

    • Lack of housing, jobs, and education in communities where offenders are concentrated.

    Beat probation changes the persons involved in community problems, the role of government, the priorities of juvenile justice professionals, the methods of supervision, and the places that supervision occurs in order to meet the needs of the community.

  • Peer Mediation and Dispute Resolution in Schools. Schools and community members teach youth conflict management skills and alternatives to violence. Learning these valuable skills when they are young deters these youth from future violence, builds their self-esteem, and helps them develop empathy.

  • Anger Management and Mediation Courses for Teachers and Parents. Community safety is enhanced when the adults who work with juvenile offenders understand critical thinking processes and can model those skills.

  • Alternatives to Suspension and Expulsion. Most juvenile burglaries happen in the daytime. As both parents more often work outside the home, many homes are left vulnerable to these types of breakins. If juveniles are kept in school, their opportunity for offending is restricted.

    In BARJ, schools provide alternatives to suspension and expulsion that build competencies in youth. For individuals who are suspended or expelled, mandatory community work service isordered, preferably involving experiences that build competencies and have personal meaning to the juvenile.

  • Community Guardians and "Natural Surveillance." Community members contribute to restorative community safety by helping to guide young people toward activities that build community and develop self-esteem and potential while monitoring and mentoring youth on community supervision.

Promising Programs: Community Safety

  • Community Intensive Supervision Program; Allegheny County, PA. Designed to provide an alternative to institutionalization for youth under court supervision, this program uses the following strategies to address community safety concerns: monitored school attendance, required attendance at the CISP neighborhood center 7 days a week from approximately 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., electronic monitoring, and drug and alcohol testing. Extensive community service opportunities provide structured supervised time.

  • Massachusetts Probation Agencies Target Drunk Driving. Each year, tens of thousands of Americans are killed by drunk drivers, and many more are injured in drunk-driving crashes. Probation agencies in Massachusetts have targeted certain bars that are known to have served drunk drivers before their arrests and have supplied the names of the bars to licensing boards. The State has also abolished "happy hours" after probation agencies documented how the practice generated a disproportionate number of drunk drivers.

  • Police and Probation Working in the Community -- Operation Night Light; Boston, MA. Operation Night Light is a cooperative effort between the Youth Violence Task Force and the Massachusetts Department of Probation that sends teams of police and probation officers on regular home, school, or worksite visits to enforce curfews or court-designated area restrictions and ensure that youth on probation are complying with the terms of their probation. The visits provide for an interactive relationship between the probation officer and the probationer, strengthen relationships between police officers and probation officers, get parents involved in their children's probation, and serve notice to other youth that police and probation officers are serious about their mission.

  • New Chance Program; Dakota County, MN. Asan alternative to out-of-home placement and secure detention, juveniles attend an extended day-treatment program that includes school, life and communication skills development, health, substance abuse treatment, recreation, community work service, and tutoring. Evenings are spent at home under electronic monitoring and parental supervision.

  • Belle Glade and Pleasant City Beat Probation; Palm Beach County, FL. Modeled after problem-oriented policing, the juvenile justice program assigns workers to a specific neighborhood or community center to assist in solving community safety problems and supervising structured group activities such as community service.

Common Problems in Choosing Community Safety Strategies

  • Use of Secure Confinement for Juvenile Offenders, Especially Property or Drug Offenders, Whose Community Safety Risk Can Be Managed in the Community. In this scenario, the level of restriction does not match the level of risk, incarceration creates the possibility of an unhealthy peer group, cost is high for the level of risk, opportunity for repaying the victim and community is severely reduced, and isolation from conventional community members is increased. Although incarceration may limit opportunity for offending in the short term, the effects may increase the risk of future offending.

  • Use of Strategies That Rely Solely on the Juvenile Justice System. Safety strategies basedsolely on the juvenile justice system limit the options for a variety of responses, are less costeffective, and fail to maximize opportunities to reconnect youth to the community. Additionally, measures that rely solely on the juvenile justice system perpetuate the cycle of community dependence on the system to solve problems separately from the community, which weakens the community's own problem-solving capability.

  • Failure To Respond Swiftly to Breaches of Safety Measures. Community perceptions of safety depend upon confidence in the system to respond to breaches of safety. If the system fails to respond swiftly, public trust in the system is eroded, which often prompts calls for more drastic responses.

  • A Prevailing Focus by Juvenile Justice Professionals on Case Management Instead of Neighborhood Problem Solving. Traditional case management strategies place primary responsibility for juvenile offenders on the juvenile justice system rather than engaging the community in finding creative solutions to the problem. A focus on individual cases fails to address larger causes of crime in the community.

  • Failure of Juvenile Justice Professionals To Be Involved in the Planning or Implementation of Prevention Strategies. Juvenile justice professionals are in a position to make a valuable impact on preventing criminal behavior through restorative practice. Rather than just reacting to crime, juvenile justice professionals have the ability to serve as resources and educators to strengthen community safety and build partnerships with schools, communities, social service agencies, and the families and youth in their community.

Recommended Participants for Implementation

  • School staff who provide supervision for a large part of a youth's day.

  • Community programs for youth that provide adult supervision.

  • Recreation and sports programs with adult supervision.

  • Employers.

  • Individual community members who are willing to be mentors or community guardians.

  • Local law enforcement, especially officers assigned to community-based policing efforts.

  • Family members.

Roles for Juvenile Justice Professionals

  • Develop and implement a continuum of sanctions for supervised juvenile offenders who violate conditions of compliance on probation or during aftercare.

  • Promote youth development and community problem solving.

  • Gather information about victim and community fears and develop strategies to address those fears.

  • Work with juvenile offenders, school staff, members of community groups, offenders' families, law enforcement, and employers to ensure structured day and night community supervision of juvenile offenders.

  • Develop role as a "resource" to schools and community groups for mediation, parent training, and other conflict resolution efforts.

  • Work collaboratively with others to address community conditions that contribute to crime.

Expected Outcomes

  • No further offenses by youth while on supervision.

  • Reduced levels of fear in the community and for victims.

  • Increased community understanding of juvenile justice.

  • Increased competency, victim empathy, and internal controls for juvenile offenders who are under supervision.

  • Increased connections to conventional community members.

  • Increased sense of belonging to the community.

  • Decreased school violence and increased school- and community-based conflict resolution.

  • Increased community involvement and ownership in managing the behavior of all youth in the community.

Benefits to Juvenile Justice Professionals

  • Increased victim and community satisfaction because community safety is seriously addressed.

  • Increased responsibility for community safety shared by numerous institutions and individuals, thereby alleviating the burden of sole responsibility on the juvenile justice professional.

  • Increased number of adults monitoring the behavior of delinquent youth.

  • Decreased opportunity for delinquent youth to reoffend while on supervision.

  • Increased sense of efficacy in addressing community safety issues.

Guiding Questions for Juvenile Justice Professionals

  • How do we restrict the opportunities for juvenile offenders to commit offenses? (How well is the juvenile offender's time structured under community supervision, day and night?)

  • How do we build relationships that inhibit offending?

  • How do we involve multiple systems and community members in managing the behavior of the juvenile offender?

  • How can we be seen as community resources for schools and community groups?

  • How do we promote youth development?

  • Have we identified members of the community who are concerned and involved in improving the community? Have we built relationships with them?

  • Are we involved in community problem solving? Do we know how to listen and work collaboratively with community members to identify concerns and engage victims, offenders, and other community members in addressing the community's needs?

  • Have we developed and do we use a continuum of sanctions other than incarceration for supervising juvenile offenders who violate their conditions of probation or aftercare?

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