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PNS Daily Newscast - November 16, 2018 


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Restorative Justice Class Cuts Costs of Incarceration

Proponents of restorative justice classes say by hearing directly from victims, people who commit crimes can better understand the scale of the harm they have caused. (Bimblebury/Wikimedia Commons)
Proponents of restorative justice classes say by hearing directly from victims, people who commit crimes can better understand the scale of the harm they have caused. (Bimblebury/Wikimedia Commons)
August 16, 2018

LINCOLN, Neb. – An outside-the-box approach to criminal justice in Nebraska is helping decrease the chance of formerly incarcerated people returning to prison, and saving taxpayer dollars.

The Community Justice Center's restorative justice classes help offenders break down and identify the emotional, physical and financial harm experienced by their victims.

The program also gives people skills they'll need when they rejoin communities.

Rick Carter, the center’s director of operations, refers to the practice as creating better emotional hygiene.

"Things are broken way before they've ever been caught for a specific crime,” he points out. “How do you go back and address the way you've dealt with your own issues, and deal with them differently as you move forward? How do you make better choices next time?"

According to a recent study, probationers who completed the center's restorative justice program were half as likely to re-enter the system.

By comparison, nearly 7 in 10 people who did not complete the class re-offended.

Carter says it costs upwards of $35,000 a year to keep a male incarcerated, and he notes there are additional hidden costs when people are not able to get jobs and be contributing members of their families and communities.

The center's classes have reached more than 6,000 participants across the state, including many rural communities.

Carter says one key is finding a way to expand a perpetrator's empathy not only for the direct victim of his or her crime, but also to the families and communities that experience ripple effects.

Carter maintains by looking at justice a slightly different way, beyond punishment doled out by the state, there's an opportunity for healing and moving forward.

"It's really about them being more accountable for their harm,” he stresses. “And to look at their harm not as ‘me versus the state of Nebraska,’ but their harm as they've damaged human relationships, and what's their responsibility to repair that harm."

Carter says in the current process, victims' voices are frequently not heard, as many plea bargains happen outside of the courtroom.

Carter says restorative justice elevates the voice of the victim, because hearing from the victim directly can help offenders truly understand the scale of the harm they've done.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - NE