The Use of Restorative Justice in the Youth Criminal Justice Act: A Multiple Stakeholder Perspective

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King, Emily
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The use of restorative justice in the youth justice field has increased significantly since the enactment of the Youth Criminal Justice Act in 2003 (Thomas, 2008). Legislation within the Youth Criminal Justice Act requires incarceration to be employed as a last resort leading to increased reliance on extra-judicial programs (Department of Justice Canada, 2009 September). Research into restorative justice use has highlighted a need for standardization of restorative justice programs and has identified ambiguity surrounding the term "restorative justice" (Johnson, 2003). Additional research into restorative justice stakeholder perceptions is essential for the advancement of restorative justice programming. Determining stakeholder motivations, beliefs and implementation practices will provide a better understanding of the standard of programming being provided. The current research study used both quantitative and qualitative methodologies to identify restorative justice stakeholder beliefs, values and attitudes regarding restorative justice. Four stakeholder groups were identified within a large urban municipality in Nova Scotia. These stakeholders consisted of restorative justice caseworkers, restorative justice volunteers, mental health professionals and police officers. Surveys were distributed to three of these stakeholder groups (restorative justice caseworkers, restorative justice volunteers and mental health professionals). A total of eight surveys were returned from these three stakeholder groups. Seven interviews were also conducted with individuals from the fourth stakeholder group (police officers) and restorative justice administrative figures. Results from the current study found that many restorative justice stakeholders identified restorative justice as a specific program for youth in conflict with the law. Very few respondents understood restorative justice to be a philosophy and unique way of looking at criminal offending. Gaps in restorative justice programming within the researched municipality were also identified. A need for higher standards of communication across all stakeholder groups was identified as an important feature to address. Research respondents further highlighted the need for additional community and societal support in the restorative justice field. Participants identified that increased funding for training opportunities and additional community programming would assist restorative justice in increasing its effectiveness. Restorative justice stakeholders require adequate training, funding and knowledge in order to implement high standard restorative justice programming for victims and youth within Nova Scotia.
Youth Criminal Justice Act , Canada , Restorative Justice , Juvenile Delinquents , Rehabilitation , Administration of Criminal Justice