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Second Chance for Incarcerated Youth

By Dianne Frazee-Walker

The first time Jeanette Holtham, Founder and President of The Youth Transformation Center visited a youth prison she was scared to death.  Image courtesy of youthtransformationcenter.org

Holtham is a petite red head with a serene composure, but her aspirations are much larger.  She is no longer intimidated by rough looking teens masked with baleful tattoos, multiple piercings, and an array of trinkets hanging from every body part. Holtham knows there are incredible young people hidden behind the masquerading attire.  

Holtham is appalled at the 30-50% drop out rate of juveniles ages 12-17 in Colorado, and the 62,000 that are suspended. She is on a mission to salvage the lives of these young people.  Holtham is collaborating with Colorado school districts and the Department of Youth Corrections to make this happen.  

Holtham is one of the pioneers of a growing global phenomenon called restorative justice, which is a set of principles used to hold offenders accountable for the harm he or she has caused,  provide victims with a voice about how the criminal action has affected them, and how the damage should be repaired .

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The Victim Offender Reconciliation Program

Mediation for victims of crimes, their families and the offenders is a large part of finding restitution for the crime and from having that crime reoccur.

The Victim Offender Reconciliation Program, based in Fresno, California, is a faith-based nonprofit organization that provides voluntary, non-fee mediation services to victims of juvenile crime and theirr offenders.

The Victim Offender Reconciliation Program began in 1982 in Fresno County and is based on the Biblical Vision of Shalom (Whole-Making Peace). The program sees this as existing when there are right-relations between fellow human beings, and between people and God.

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Insight Prison Project

Think about a new way of looking at prison rehabilitation – one that focuses on healing. This is called Restorative Justice. Current prison rehabilitation focuses on punishment, race class discrimination, and creating a non-healing environment. Restorative Justice works and focuses on healing the inmates and working on restoring losses by allowing prisoners to take responsibility for their actions and by helping victims move forward in their healing as well. 

Restorative Justice uses a different approach in trying to mend relationships through open communication with prisoners, creating dialogue between prisoners and community and helping inmates learn to become involved with community. 

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