In 2011, Colorado state law created new opportunities for victims of crime in the form of High Impact Victim Offender Dialogues.
Use of restorative justice practices by judges is specifically authorized under Colorado law and is a growing area of development in both juvenile
and adult cases. In Colorado, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Florida and other states and municipalities where judges have relationships
with trusted, trained restorative justice practitioners, they utilize restorative justice in conjunction with the judicial system to help reduce
collateral consequences and ensure victims have a voice in the justice process. Restorative justice practices give Judges an innovative option
to consider prior to or in conjunction with sanctions or sentencing. Restorative justice is not for everyone.
Colorado statutes require prospective defendants to accept responsibility for their actions, exhibit contrition and be willing to do something tangible to repair the harm to the victim and the community
When a victim initiates or requests a restorative justice process, there may be resources available to meet their needs. The restorative justice process may occur later in the continuum of the justice process, when victims are ready to take that step.
In Colorado, by statute, judges are to inform juveniles and defendants about the availability of restorative justice both at the initial advisement before the court and at sentencing. In addition, the ability to recommend a juvenile for evaluation to participate in restorative justice is included as one of the judges’ sentencing options. Judges may:
- order defendants to be assessed for suitability to participate in restorative justice
- talk with prosecuting attorneys to determine if victims are interested in utilizing a restorative process to request repairs of the harm done to them
- consider a restorative agreement as part of sanctions or sentencing
What it may look like: Trained restorative justice facilitators prepare participants to meet face to face to talk about what happened, who has been affected and how the harm may be repaired. Often community members are invited to talk about the ripple effects of the crime on the community. All parties come together at a designated time and location to sit in a circle where they each have a voice. At the end of the face to face meeting, the person or people responsible for the harm make agreements to make things right to the extent possible. A timeframe is set for completion and the agreement is monitored to track completion and record data.
Does it work? Statistically, more than 90% of participating offenders do everything they say they will do to repair the harm they caused. Of those who complete, on average less than10% will re-offend in the following year. Over 95% of the time all participants report feeling satisfied or better with their experience in restorative justice.
There are several successful programs, experienced facilitators and practitioners around the state that may offer support in the use of restorative justice practices from the judicial point of contact. For more information about what is available in your area visit the RJ Directory or contact Deb Witzel, State Restorative Justice Coordinator; firstname.lastname@example.org (720) 625-5964.