The Victim Services/ Restorative Justice Unit provides centralized coordination of the Division’s victim and restorative community justice services. This office provides direct services, leadership, applied program development, and technical assistance to victims, community members and DYC staff.
Victims of crime have rights that are guaranteed by the Colorado State Constitution. Assisting victims in understanding and exercising these rights is a priority for Division of Youth Corrections (DYC) staff. In addition to feeling victimized as a result of criminal activity, individuals, their families and communities can also feel victimized by the legal system. For this reason the Division of Youth Corrections works to ensure that victims of crimes perpetrated by youth in DYC custody are treated with fairness and compassion throughout the various stages of the criminal justice process.
Victim Services staff work to address the diverse needs of victims in an attempt to reduce the potential for re-victimization. In support of these goals, DYC staff:
DYC Victim Services staff seeks to empower crime victims by providing information and various opportunities to engage in services at a level that is appropriate, and comfortable, for each individual.
DYC staff provide a variety of services and information to victims of crime that include,
The Victim Services/Restorative Justice Coordinator also provides training for DYC staff regarding the responsibilities of the Division under the Victim Rights Act, the impact of crime on victims, and Victim Empathy Class facilitator training.
Once enrolled in the Victim Notification (VNOT) Program, victims are provided with information throughout the various critical stages of the juvenile offender’s case. Any persons who wish to participate in the program must enroll with the Division of Youth Corrections. Enrollment does not transfer across stages of the system and therefore, victims who wish to continue participation must enroll with the Division of Youth Corrections after the offender has been committed.
The Division of Youth Corrections serves two types of youth, those who are being held in detention for short periods of time and those offenders who have been committed to the custody of the Department of Human Services, Division of Youth Corrections.
Victims are responsible for notifying the Division of Youth Corrections of changes to their personal contact information.
Restorative Community Justice (RCJ) practices and principles have been utilized over many centuries to, “… to involve, to the extent possible those who have a stake in a specific offense and to collectively identify and address harms, needs and obligations, in order to heal and put things as right as possible.” (Zehr, 2002)
Likewise, Restorative Community Justice is an integral component of the Division of Youth Corrections mission and vision. However, as a juvenile corrections agency, focused primarily on the rehabilitation of offenders, it can be very difficult to have all stakeholders come together to participate in an RCJ process. The Division seeks to provide every willing victim of crime, who is interested in such a process, safe and structured opportunities to do so. Additional information is available through the Victim Services/Restorative Justice Coordinator.
Many times, individuals who are impacted by crime may choose other ways in which to work towards ‘restoration’. The Division is currently focused on developing opportunities for victims and community members to become involved in RCJ processes. These opportunities may include serving on impact panels, volunteer occasions, or working with youth and staff in community service projects.
In contrast to a punishment focused or “retributive” organizational setting, the Division seeks to establish a “Restorative Culture”. Formal processes designed to teach youth new skills as well as imbuing daily routines with an RCJ focus characterize such an atmosphere. Restorative principles and strengths based practices are embedded throughout everyday processes within the detention and commitment process. Activities range from the highly structured and more intense to the less formal. Examples of RCJ practices that have been implemented over the past ten years are Victim Empathy groups, accountability circles, apology letters, conflict mediation, victim offender mediation, and family conferencing.
By embracing RCJ principles and practice, the Division of Youth Corrections provides youth, victims and communities the services and opportunities to address the harm experienced and become involved in processes and activities that aid individuals to become increasingly whole.
As youth experience these day-to-day restorative applications and services, they develop new skill sets that are used to repair the harm to victims and their communities.