Courtesy of Dane County TimeBank
The past year has seen tremendous changes in the way Madison approaches juvenile justice, both in its schools and in the broader community. Instead of reflexively resorting to its long-standing criminal justice approach – issuing police citations leading to municipal court appearances – police, school officials, and community organizations are employing restorative justice techniques as part of a collaborative effort to handle youth behavior in a way that restores harm and promotes positive youth development.
Regardless of the setting, the restorative justice methodology allows the community to hold people accountable for their actions, while diverting them from the formal justice system.
One of the main proponents of this approach is the Dane County TimeBank (DCTB), which organizes community members using the currency of time, in the form of neighbor-to-neighbor exchange of services. The mission of the TimeBank Youth Court Program is to provide a positive alternative to the juvenile justice system so youth can willingly take responsibility for their actions, make amends and build healthy and productive relationships. Working with law enforcement, schools, and neighborhood groups, youth in the program can contribute to a safer, more caring community.
Established in Madison in 2005, DCTB has quickly grown to be one of the largest and most-respected timebanks in the country, boasting some 2,800 members. In September of 2015, the TimeBank became a partner in a city-wide initiative to provide all youth between the ages of 12-16 the opportunity to participate in a restorative justice process rather than go through Municipal Court. Along with partners at YWCA, Briarpatch Youth Services, and Dane County Human Services, the cross-systems collaboration is working to reduce the number of youth entering the formal system. The TimeBank is now running youth courts at all four city high schools as well as at two new community locations held at Fountain of Life Church and James Reeb Unitarian Church.
This approach is showing very positive results.
Across all four Madison high schools, restorative justice youth courts have contributed to markedly improved school climate. There are far fewer youth receiving formal municipal citations for behavior incidents occurring at the schools and there have been hundreds of youth trained in restorative justice philosophy and practices. The more recently-established community courts are also using restorative justice programming with young adults across the city of Madison, as well as with citations involving the homeless population in downtown Madison.
The TimeBank is inviting its members and the broader community to celebrate and honor the leaders who have helped to bring about these systemic changes at the 2nd Annual Rock for Restorative Justice event. The festivities will take place on Saturday, June 4 from 12:00-3:00 p.m. at the High Noon Saloon, 701 E. Washington Ave. in Madison. Several local bands will provide live music. Between acts we will recognize the young leaders who serve as peer jurors. Community leaders in the Madison Police Department, the Madison Metropolitan School District, and Dane County will also be honored for their pivotal roles in promoting restorative justice as a positive alternative to the traditional justice system, which has proven less effective, and more unjust.
This year’s award recipients are uniformly enthusiastic about the impact to the restorative justice courts:
Jennifer Cheatham, Superintendent, Madison Metropolitan School District
“Our school district is on a mission to close gaps in opportunities that lead to disparities in achievement and to raise achievement for all students. I believe partnerships with organizations like the Dane County TimeBank are mission critical. Restorative justice gives our students the opportunity to solve problems, learn together, and ultimately, create stronger school communities.”
Andre Johnson, Dane County Juvenile Justice Manager
“Starting in September of 2015, youth who receive municipal citations in the city of Madison began receiving an alternative option for resolving that situation. Youth are able to participate in a restorative intervention in lieu of appearance in municipal court. If youth complete all of their obligations they do not have an arrest on their records. I think this is an exciting shift in the way we do business. Instead of criminalizing behavior we are able to address the root causes while holding the youth accountable and working to restore the harm that they caused.”
Mike Koval, Chief of the Madison Police Department
“The “traditional” response to behaviors that are contrary to law has been to ticket or arrest (or both). We know full well that this process has proven to be expensive, has resulted in “labeling”, and has not had a demonstrable effect on rates of recidivism for our youth. We now have the will and the opportunity to move the paradigm beyond “brick-and-mortar” punishment models to a much more comprehensive approach: collaboration with community providers focused on restorative justice. By making this fundamental shift, the hope is that relationships will be forged that are more consequential, less adversarial, and more beneficial, not only for a youthful offender but for our broader community as well.”
Dan Koval, Dane County Municipal Court Judge
“Time Bank has been an invaluable resource for and partner with the Madison Municipal Court. As a result of the collaboration court cases are resolved in a restorative manner that addresses the needs of all—the offender, the victim, and the community.”
Systemic change to address social and racial justice requires years of patient work by numerous individuals, organizations and agencies. Please join us on June 4 to celebrate the many people and entities whose efforts have helped to make Madison a safer and more just community for all its citizens.