Ottawa County Juvenile Restorative Justice

Our speakers were Paul Krause, Elizabeth Giddings, Tom Wolf, and Dotti. They are all involved in the year-old restorative justice program in Ottawa County. Elizabeth was involved in law school, then worked in juvenile justice in Detroit, and now heads up the Mediation Center in Holland. Paul was an Attorney General in Iowa, practiced family law, was a prosecutor in the family law division, and has just been elected judge in family court. Dotti and Tom have both been long term mediators in civil and family cases.

Repair Harm and Restore Hope

The purpose of the program is to address the harm done, to hold the offender responsible, and to make restitution to the victim. The program is available to first time offenders who are 19 and younger. The program has worked with youth from 11-19 years old. The victim must agree for the case to be handled by the restorative justice process. If the offender completes the program, there will be no court record. In order to successfully complete the program, the offender must take responsibility by writing a letter acknowledging the harm they caused, change their behavior, and make restoration to the victim along with community service. If there was physical harm to an individual, they must also complete counseling.

Stories of Justice

One case involved embezzlement from an employer. Dotti talked about how the business owner was firm but compassionate with the offender. Other employees talked to the offender about how an incident like this lessens trust in the business and how that affects them as employees. This is part of the concept of restorative justice, to help juveniles to understand how many individuals can be affected by an action.
Tom talked about 3 similar cases. One involved theft, another was breaking glass in a transportation center, and the last was discharging a fire extinguisher in a public library. In all of these cases the offender was accompanied by their mother to the mediation session. The mothers made no excuse for their children's behavior, expressed their disappointment, and made it clear that they would make sure the child would be responsible for earning the monetary restitution.