Young people in the United States are entering the youth justice system in shocking numbers, and many seem to come out worse than when they went in. More than half of incarcerated kids are likely to re-commit crimes after being released. Some wonder whether exposure to the system itself could be perpetuating a life of crime. On the other side of the world, a New Zealand youth court has incorporated restorative principles of justice adapted from Maori culture, bringing victims and offenders together to resolve disputes. In Maori history, a crime put the community out of balance. Traditional Maori justice seeks to restore that balance. Focusing on rehabilitation more than punishment, New Zealand has seen great success and set a precedent for youth justice around the world.
Dr. Lauren Abramson, Founder and Executive Director of the Community Conferencing Center in Baltimore, has adapted the Maori model. Her quest is to challenge the current system and create change from the ground up by giving kids an opportunity to resolve conflicts through community conferences rather than going to court. A new film from National Geographic, “Fixing Juvie Justice,” premieres on KUED August 13 at 8:00 p.m. The film shows how people come together to resolve conflict in their own communities and the drama that unfolds when everyone is given a chance to let emotions out. Dr. Lauren Abramson joins Tom Williams for the hour.