Restorative Justice Growing Strong in DC: A Roundtable with Seema Gajwani and Roman Haferd from the Office of The Attorney General - Washington, DC; and Rashid Hughes and Tarek Maassarani of Restorative DC.
In this Roundtable from the National Association for Community and Restorative Justice's 7th Conference, held in Denver, CO, June 14-16, 2019, host Molly Rowan Leach sat down with the people behind the exponential expansion of restorative justice cross-sector in our nation's capital. We talk restorative justice in schools, and how the Prosecutor's office in DC realized how effective RJ is, and has grown its program which started in 2016 to include a wide range of cases. We also talk resistances, doubts in implementation, and how Restorative DC, a cross-profession hub for restorative justice took root almost a decade ago and has spurred powerful collaborations and systems work, expanding rapidly within human systems from schools to federal courts and beyond.
Rashid Hughes is the Restorative Justice and Youth Leadership Program Specialist for Restorative DC
About The Organizations:
In 2016, Attorney General Racine launched OAG’s Restorative Justice Program to address the root problems of crime and conflict, and offer juvenile prosecutors an alternative to traditional prosecution. Restorative justice conferencing is a way to resolve conflicts by focusing on repairing harm to victims. This program brings those affected by a crime together with the offenders for a discussion to hold offenders accountable, empower victims and repair the harm caused by crime.
Nationwide statistics show restorative justice programs have better success than traditional prosecution at rehabilitating offenders, increasing victim satisfaction and lowering costs.
With the help of a U.S. Department of Justice Smart Prosecution grant, OAG has expanded its use of restorative justice and has hired five full-time staffers for this program. By expanding this data-driven program in communities around the District, OAG is addressing community conflicts directly in neighborhoods experiencing violence. While other jurisdictions have implemented restorative justice programs, OAG is the first public safety agency to do so in-house, where restorative justice specialists work alongside prosecutors. This innovative approach to juvenile justice helps reduce recidivism and support better outcomes for District youth.
Restorative DC emerged from the DC Alliance for Restorative Practices (DCARP), a broad-based network of educators, police, agency officials, restorative practitioners, community-based organizations, youth workers, and juvenile justice advocates that formed in 2012. Since its establishment in 2015, Restorative DC has carried forward this collaborative spirit, cultivating interagency cooperation and partnership with other community-based organizations. Restorative DC is a project of SchoolTalk, a local nonprofit with over a decade of working with youth to improve conflict resolution and special education in the District. Restorative DC currently supports restorative change in dozens of DC schools with onsite technical assistance, as well as offering District-wide professional development and restorative services to education, juvenile justice, and other agencies.