In 1996 a member of the community, dissatisfied with the way the court system dispensed justice to two juveniles convicted of vandalizing his house, investigated alternative ways of resolving disputes within communities, becoming familiar with the basic principles of Restorative Justice. He brought his knowledge to the community through a variety of forums within churches, schools, and city organizations.
Several key individuals, including school administrators, corrections staff, judges, and attorneys, responded to using restorative measures. Policies were created for how and when an offense committed in South St. Paul would be handled through Restorative Justice rather than the court system.
South St. Paul Restorative Justice Council was formed to oversee the process. Initially funding through grants established three full-time staff positions within the schools and one part-time position focused on community cases. We currently have two Peace Maker Guides in the elementary schools. The Council has 501(c)(3) status, and is funded by private and public grants and donations.
The Case That Started It All
Two juveniles vandalized a house. The damage amounted to $10,000. With the help of the owner, they learned that it was a home, filled with memories, family treasures, hopes and dreams. The “safe place” that we all call “home” had been violated. The owner of the home wanted to know “Why?” and to help the juveniles reconnect to the neighborhood in a healthy way. The traditional court system eventually included the victim in the process. The results were life changing for all involved. The owner of the home gathered others in the community to learn of alternative ways of resolving disputes. The basic principles of Restorative Justice, based on ancient community practices, appealed to the sensibilities of all involved as a practical, effective, and sustainable approach to conflict and crime.