Focus Point - Innovation with Youthful Offenders

Commentary by Pete du Pont

I'm Pete du Pont with the National Center for Policy Analysis. A new NCPA study shows that restorative justice programs offer something besides jail to control crime. They're based on the principles of victim restoration and offender accountability.

Indianapolis has experimented with such a program since 1997. Once a youth is arrested, a coordinator arranges a conference with the violator, the victims and their families. Specially trained police officers run the meeting, at which victims can confront the offender. The goal is to arrive at an agreement under which the offender takes certain actions, including contrition, service to the victim and community service. It doesn't include those who've committed serious crimes.

So far, 90 percent of victims say they were satisfied, versus 68 percent with other court-ordered remedies. The rate at which offenders fulfill their responsibilities is higher, their re-arrest rate lower.

By taking the impersonal nature out of the proceedings - by forcing young offenders to look in the eyes of people they've hurt - there's a chance to nip young criminal careers in the bud, before criminals become less than human.

Those are my ideas, and at the NCPA we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont, and I'll see you next time.