Juvenile justice program to launch in September

Glenn Funk (Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Davidson County’s District Attorney and Juvenile Court Judge plan to have a restorative justice non-profit partner by September 1.

The non-profit partner is one of the final steps in launching the diversion pilot program that will focus on cutting juvenile crime and the number of repeat offenders.

“In Nashville, a number of non-profit organizations have been working on restorative justice in different ways,” Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk said.

He continued, “Some programs are in the schools, some organizations have been advocating for restorative justice in other ways.”

Restorative Justice is a criminal justice model that emphasizes the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large.

In Davidson County, the pilot program would begin in the juvenile justice court and expand to the adult system if it is successful.

“What we are going to do in the pilot program is deal with auto theft cases and some burglaries only when the victim approves,” Funk said. “What has to happen is the offender has to accept responsibility, they have to admit to what they did, they have to meet with the victim, they have to find out what they need to do to make the victim whole, and then they have to take concrete steps to try to make the victim whole.”

The justice model is in use in other cities including Oakland, California. Funk traveled to Oakland recently for a conference with other law enforcement and restorative justice officials.

In the Bay area, Oakland and San Francisco have implemented restorative justice programs.

“In Oakland they have seen a 90 percent satisfaction rating from victims and a 12 percent recidivism rate,” Funk said.

During the process the victim and offender work separately with counselors and others with the goal of coming face to face.

That meeting gives the victim the opportunity to talk to their offender, ask questions and get closure.

For the offender, they are able to take accountability for how their actions hurt the victim.

Funk said this is especially important with juvenile offenders.

“If they start to view themselves as an adversaries to law enforcement or adversaries to others in their community, then that is someone who will go on to commit crimes as an adult,” Funk said.

Metro-Nashville and Davidson County has seen an increase in juvenile crime and violence in 2017.

Restorative Justice is one of the recommendations that resulted from Mayor Megan Barry’s Youth Violence Summits last spring.

“The question is, where do we house this pilot project,” Funk said. “We have talked to a number of different partners who could house this. We want to make sure we have support from non-profit groups, victim rights groups and those who represent offenders.”

Funk said his office and the juvenile court will monitor the cases that go through the restorative justice program and similar crimes that do not so leaders can determine how effective the process is working.

The program will be voluntary for victims. If they do not want to participate, then the offender will not be allowed into the diversion program.