Our Balanced and Restorative Justice Mission
The Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice System is a dynamic and ever-changing institution dedicated to serving the Commonwealth’s juvenile offenders, victims, communities, and families. Two key events in recent years have helped to conceptualize and define the purpose and duties of the Commonwealth’s juvenile justice system. First, in 1995, Act 33 was passed in which the goals of Balanced and Restorative Justice were established. These goals include community protection, accountability, and competency development. Second, in 2011, the Juvenile Justice System Enhancement Strategy was adopted to enhance the capacity of the system to achieve its balanced and restorative justice mission through the implementation of evidence–based practices.
With the passage of Act 33 in 1995, Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Act was amended and the mission of Pennsylvania’s juvenile justice system was redefined to include the goals of Balanced and Restorative Justice. According to Act 33, the juvenile justice system was charged “…to provide for children committing delinquent acts programs of supervision, care and rehabilitation which provide balanced attention to the protection of the community, the imposition of accountability for offenses committed and the development of competencies to enable children to become responsible and productive members of the community.”
In essence, this meant that the juvenile justice system was tasked to equally address community protection, victim restoration through accountability, and youth redemption through competency development. Community protection refers to the fundamental right that all Pennsylvania citizens have to both be and feel safe from crime. Victim restoration emphasizes that crime can forever change its victims, and that victims have the right to be restored to their pre-crime status to the greatest extent possible through offender accountability. Finally, youth redemption embodies the belief that the vast majority of juvenile offenders are capable of change and have strengths upon which treatment services can build through competency development. Ultimately, Balanced and Restorative Justice ensures that no one stakeholder group (i.e., victim, community, juvenile) is pitted against another. Instead, each party’s need is attended to and future harm is diminished. For twenty years, the Pennsylvania juvenile justice system has operated under the tenets of Balanced and Restorative Justice. For more information on each of the guiding principles of Balanced and Restorative Justice, please review the White Papers.
The Juvenile Justice System Enhancement Strategy initiative was launched in 2011. Recognizing the growing body of empirical research on “what works” to treat juvenile offenders and reduce harm to communities and victims, stakeholders created a framework to enhance the capacity of Pennsylvania’s juvenile justice system to achieve its Balanced and Restorative Justice Mission. This framework calls on stakeholders to employ evidence-based practices with fidelity at every stage of the juvenile justice process, to make a commitment to data collection, analysis, and research, and to demonstrate a commitment to continuous quality improvement in every aspect of the system. Though the Juvenile Justice System Enhancement Strategy emphasizes the use of research evidence to achieve competency development, only one of the core Balanced and Restorative Justice Objectives, the other tenets of community protection and accountability are also addressed as less harm to communities and victims will occur in the future. For more information on the Juvenile Justice System Enhancement Strategy, please review the Monograph.