by Jennifer Deibert
The Reedley (Calif.) Peace Building Initiative is a community-wide partnership established by West Coast Mennonite Central Committee, Reedley Police Department, and Kings Canyon Unified School District, serving alongside local organizations and community members.
John Swenning, the restorative justice coordinator for West Coast MCC, says, “restorative justice saves money, saves time and saves lives.” In the 2009-10 school year, expulsions at Reedley High School totaled 142. Since the Peace Building Initiative formed in 2011, expulsions dropped to 43 in the 2013-14 school year, creating a new culture of peace.
The Reedley Peace Building Initiative is a process in which sworn officers, school district staff and community members have been trained and understand the philosophy of restorative justice. The process allows lower-level juvenile offenders to be kept out of the justice system and in school.
Using a restorative justice model of mediation, juvenile offenders have the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions and make things as right as possible. The goal is to restore relationships between victims and juvenile offenders, prevent offenders from committing further crimes and promote community involvement.
The organizations participating in this initiative have taken an important step toward alternate responses to juvenile crime, while embracing the philosophy of restorative justice and holistic community restoration.
To learn more about the Reedley Peace Building Initiative, visit rpbi-reedley.org.
Jennifer Deibert was the communications coordinator for West Coast Mennonite Central Committee.