Pittsburgh Neighborhood Will Try Restorative Justice System


Residents of Pittsburgh’s Manchester neighborhood are taking steps toward creating a criminal-justice system all their own, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. It would be a pilot for neighborhoods. The system is based on both a revolutionary and old idea: that offenses in the neighborhood are best handled by those most interested in righting the wrongs — the neighbors. It is not vigilante justice. In fact, called restorative justice, it is designed to heal the offender, the victim and the community. “The offender, victim and community are the ones who are involved, not the state,” said Jerome Jackson, program coordinator for the Manchester Citizens Corp. “You pay your debt to the person you harmed rather than to society.”

The Pittsburgh Mediation Center for Victims of Violence and Crime would likely help Jackson train Manchester residents as mediators on accountability panels. The center makes contact with the victim to find out if he is willing to discuss solutions with the offender and a mediator. Some panels deal with the offender and not the victim, but for a case to be diverted from the courts, the victim must participate. The police and neighborhoods can work together without permission from the courts. The neighborhood’s leverage is that, if the offender does not live up to the agreement he participates in forging — say, to remove graffiti from a shop window and serve a neighborhood project for 25 hours — he has to go to juvenile court. The experiment will begin with youth offenders, but the ultimate goal is to handle all crime and disputes in the neighborhood. Stephanie Walsh, executive director of the mediation center, said both sides are usually afraid at first. “You’re facing the person you knocked down,” or the person who burgled your house. “A victim will often say, ‘Why did you pick my house?’ and the offender, though a stranger, might say, ‘I didn’t know it was your house.’ ”

Link: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08084/867524-53.stm

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