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From the Desk of BJA

November 2023
Tenzing Lahdon

By Tenzing Lahdon, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Policy Advisor on Courts, Communities, and Strategic Partnerships

A U.S. Department of Justice analysis of recidivism rates in 24 states concluded that 82 percent of individuals released from state prisons were rearrested at least once during the 10 years following release. Within one year of release, 43 percent of formerly incarcerated people were rearrested. Reliance on incarceration to improve community safety is also expensive. The average annual cost to keep a person in federal prison was $39,158 in FY 2020 ($120.59 per day) (Bureau of Prisons). Incarceration is not achieving the justice goals of broader social equity, enhanced public safety, lower recidivism rates, stronger and more resilient communities, and reduced criminal justice and correctional costs.

Restorative justice focus­es on heal­ing and account­abil­i­ty. It can provide an alternative to current criminal justice approaches or can be used alongside current approaches. Restorative justice repairs harm by providing an opportunity for harmed parties to help shape outcomes and creates an opportunity for community and individual engagement, recognizing that causing harm gives rise to obligations to make amends.

Research shows that restorative justice reduces recidivism, increases victims’ satisfaction with the justice process, and reduces the psychological trauma of crime. A 2021 Depart­ment of Jus­tice lit­er­a­ture review con­clud­ed that “youths who par­tic­i­pate in restora­tive jus­tice pro­grams are less like­ly to reof­fend, com­pared with youths who are processed in the juve­nile jus­tice system."

Supporting restorative justice programs and ensuring that this option is available to those who want to participate in the process is a priority for BJA.

Through the National Center on Restorative Justice (NCORJ), BJA offers funding to improve criminal justice policy and practice by advancing restorative justice education and training and by leading research grounded in community partnerships. NCORJ is experiencing a high demand for their training and technical assistance and is reaching people around the country through online and in-person training opportunities, coaching, scholarships, events, and teaching restorative justice at institutions of higher education. For more details, check out their webinar series (available in English and Spanish), sign up for the free coaching program, apply for a scholarship to pursue a Professional Certificate in Restorative Justice, or explore the many educational resources and recordings of past events on the NCORJ website.

NCORJ will offer new program implementation subawards in 2024, which is a great option for communities looking to start a restorative justice program.

In addition to NCORJ support, BJA provides restorative justice funding through two solicitations: FY 2023 Reimagining Justice: Testing a New Model of Community Safety solicitation and FY 2023 Field Initiated: Encouraging Innovation solicitation. To be notified when FY 2024 solicitations are released, sign up for News From BJA.

In this issue of Justice Matters, we are sharing stories from grantees that demonstrate the beneficial work occurring in restorative justice programs. We hope that you will be encouraged by these examples to apply for grant funding or training and technical assistance in the coming year.

Read the November 2023 issue of Justice Matters.

Date Published: November 27, 2023