Restorative justice focuses in part on repairing the harm done to the victim and the community, rather than solely on the rehabilitative needs of the juvenile offender. Often there is a meeting with the victim and juvenile offender during which the victim discusses the impact of the delinquent act with the juvenile. The victim, his or her family, and community leaders may give ideas for the outcome of the case. The expectation is that the juvenile will meaningfully participate in the discussion with the other participants.
But, what happens when the child has a developmental disability, learning disability, or language disability that prevents the child from meaningful communication? While “a little over nine percent of school-aged children and youth (ages 6 to 21) have been identified with a special education disability,” … “it is estimated that between 28 percent and 43 percent of detained and incarcerated youthful offenders have an identified special education disability, a majority of these being learning disabilities.” See item 2 of 7 Things Juvenile Courts Should Know about Learning Disabilities. “Research in the last decade in Australia, the USA, and the UK has shown that young offenders represent a group at high-risk of unidentified oral language impairments….[T]he have problems expressing themselves verbally by accessing appropriate vocabulary, formulating meaningful sentences, and adequately understanding…complex language…”. Pamela Snow, Restorative Justice May Not Work For All Young Offenders
For more information, see these resources:
- The National Council on Crime & Delinquency, Restorative Justice Project
- Centre for Justice and Reconciliation, Restorative Justice Online
- The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Guide for Implementing the Balanced and Restorative Justice Model
- National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, 7 Things Juvenile Courts Should Know about Learning Disabilities by Christopher A. Mallett
- Hennessey Hayes and Pamela Snow, Oral Language Competence and Restorative Justice Processes: Refining Preparation and the Measurement of Conference Outcomes, Australian Institute of Criminology (November 2013).