On a vote of 48-0, the Washington State Senate approved legislation that would permit juveniles, victims, and the community to come together to redress juvenile crime. The legislation had previously passed the State House on a unanimous vote as well.
Under a restorative justice framework, the legislation would divert juvenile offenders from traditional state programs—such as secure incarceration—when the victim and all other parties (including the prosecuting arm of the state) agree to take part in restorative justice. Each agreement would differ based on the juvenile, the victim, and the crime at issue, but the legislature hopes such agreements would increase responsibility on the part of the offender while increasing satisfaction and closure on the part of the victim.
By putting the victim front and center in these restorative justice agreements, Washington is recognizing that victims are the true consumer of a criminal justice system, and their feelings towards the outcome must be one of the first considerations when resolving a criminal case. Increasing victim involvement and satisfaction, along with responsibility and awareness of the true impact of their crimes on the part of the defendant, creates a more cohesive, responsive justice system.