Restorative Justice

Last modified on April 26th, 2023 at 06:11 pm

What is Restorative Justice?

The criminal justice system asks what laws have been broken and what punishment is deserved. Restorative Justice asks what harm has been done, who is responsible, and how can that harm be repaired? The juvenile, victim, and trained counselors come together and focuses on making amends, repairing harm and building brighter futures.

Young people who participate in the Restorative Justice process are half as likely to commit a future offense. Victims of crimes report they feel closure and healing from being fully engaged in the discussion.

Specialized VOA case managers work to stop youth from reoffending while making victims feel more respected and whole. Restorative Justice is an alternative to the overcrowding crisis facing our prison system and youth detention centers. And it saves taxpayers’ dollars – every single year-long detention for a youth in Kentucky currently costs more than $70,000. Restorative Justice is vastly more affordable – and more effective.

How the process works

The Restorative Justice process allows victims of crime to participate fully in the resolution of the offense – with a focus on seeking solutions and making amends. Trained facilitators lead a face-to-face meeting for victims (or a victim representative) and offenders along with supporters from both sides.

Participation in restorative justice programs is voluntary for victims, as well as offenders. The offender must be willing to accept responsibility for their actions and the harm caused. The victim and their support group must be willing to meet with the offender to discuss how the offense impacted them and what needs to be done to repair the harm. This facilitated process is centered on making things right for all parties involved while enabling creative solutions not used within the traditional justice system.

Why Restorative Justice?

As Kentucky’s corrections budget grows, spending in areas like education are adversely impacted. Kentucky spends more than $19,000 per year to house an adult inmate, but only $7,000 to educate a child. And it costs even more to house a juvenile each year, nearly $72,000 – making it cheaper to send a kid to college for four years than to juvenile detention for one year. That’s why restorative justice practices are so important to our community. It’s proven to reduce recidivism of offenders and increase victim satisfaction within the judicial process, building a healthy and strong Kentucky for years to come.

Community Benefits

  • Significant cost savings for every case resolved outside the court system
  • Restoration for victims
  • Closure and healing for victims and their community
  • Promotion and support of positive behavioral change of offenders
  • Successful re-integration of the young offenders back into the community
  • Prevention of future crime

Impact on Participants

Several studies of restorative justice programs prove that youth referred to restorative justice programs fared better than those that remained in the traditional court process (prevalence, number of later contacts, seriousness of later behavior, time to first offense). This impact was evident regardless of age at referral, race, gender, urban or rural residence, number of prior official contacts, and the seriousness of current offense.

Get Involved

Volunteer to be a Restorative Justice facilitator or a community representative. This volunteer opportunity engages participants to speak to the impact of the crime on your community.

Restorative Justice Case Studies


Jeremy was a good kid dealt a tough hand; growing up without a father in a rough, poor neighborhood. At 17, Jeremy had managed to rise above bad influences until a fateful day in March when 94-year-old Doris left her purse at Jeremy’s table in the restaurant where he worked. Jeremy carried the purse outside to find the woman who had left it behind. Upon stepping outside, his cousin encouraged him to steal the purse. Jeremy made the wrong decision. One could assume that Jeremy would be incarcerated for his crime, but just the opposite occurred. Because of Restorative Justice, Jeremy and Doris found reparation and reconciliation together. Restorative Justice provides an alternative for kids like Jeremy, by focusing on repairing the harm caused and healing the community. As for Jeremy and Doris, their lives were transformed in a meaningful way.


Jess vandalized a business causing more than $1,500 in damages. Keith Bruner, the owner of the vandalized business, did not ask Jess to pay him for the damages. Instead, Keith requested that Jess get a job and put $50 each month into a savings account until it reaches $1,500. When Jess turns 18, he will then be able to use the money to attend college. If he does not attend college the funds will return to Keith. Another part of their agreement requires that Jess give back to his community. Keith felt it was important for Jess to experience what is possible if he does not begin to think about his future and what he needs to do to have a chance at a good future – also to learn to care about others who have less.

Get Involved

Volunteer to be a Restorative Justice facilitator or a community representative. This volunteer opportunity engages participants to speak to the impact of the crime on your community; Jefferson, Clay, Jackson, Knox, Laurel, Leslie, McCreary, Pulaski and Rockcastle and Whitley counties of Kentucky.


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