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Ten Years of Balanced and Restorative Justice in Pennsylvania

NCJ Number
Patrick Griffin
Date Published
June 2006
8 pages
This paper describes the ways in which Pennsylvania's juvenile system has been reformed over the last decade to reflect the principles of balanced and restorative justice (BARJ).
The BARJ principles for Pennsylvania's juvenile system were incorporated in Act No. 1995-33 (Act 33), which was passed in 1995. Act 33's BARJ principles hold juvenile offenders accountable for their offenses by including in their case management requirements to remedy the harms that their offenses have caused victims and the community. In order to document what has happened over the 10 years since Act 33 was enacted, this report examined the findings of Juvenile Justice System Outcome Measures, which contain reports by the State's juvenile court and probation departments for each quarter, synthesized into an annual Juvenile Justice Report Card. The 2005 Juvenile Justice Report Card showed that just over $2.5 million in victim restitution and Crime Victims' Compensation fund payments were collected from juveniles whose cases were closed that year; and more than 500,000 hours of community service were performed by juveniles. Key observers agree that these data reflect a significant change in juvenile justice from the period before Act 33 was passed. The primary change is in holding offenders accountable for the harms they have caused. One of the most closely monitored measures of juvenile system performance in the State's juvenile probation departments is the proportion of youth who successfully complete supervision without reoffending. According to the 2005 Juvenile Justice Report Card, approximately 87 percent of cases statewide were closed without a new offense. In emphasizing accountability and the mitigation of harms, BARJ has retained the previous goals of supervision, care, and rehabilitation of juvenile offenders. In fact, BARJ has brought the implementation of these concepts to new levels by requiring training in skill-building in combination with eliminating negative behaviors. 5 notes