Restorative Justice of Wayne County
Repair. Rehabilitation. Restore.
Barbara Nelson is Program Director
for Restorative Justice of Wayne County
Restorative justice refers to a way of responding to crime, or to other types of wrongdoing, injustice or conflict, that focuses primarily on repairing the damage caused by the wrongful action and restoring, insofar as possible, the well-being of all those involved. A restorative justice program aims to get offenders to take responsibility for their actions, to understand the harm they have caused, to give them an opportunity to redeem themselves and to discourage them from causing further harm.
Barbara will continue to oversee the Teen Court Program. In addition, she will develop two other prongs of the Restorative Justice Program—Sentencing Circles and Mediation. Both programs emphasize an alternative dispute resolution model where the emphasis is not just on punishing youth offenders but on giving victims a voice, restoring trust in the community, and redirecting youth.
Barbara comes to CSS with a long history of serving youth in Wayne County. She has mentored youth at church, taught young people in the classroom, volunteered at organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club and wrote and directed a host of theatre productions that have given young thespians a chance to shine on stage. “I love working with kids,” Barbara said, “because they brim with potential, and it is always exciting to see them discover things about themselves that they didn’t know were there.”
Barbara and her family came to Goldsboro in 2005 when her husband was stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. Her husband has since retired, but the Nelsons continue to see themselves as part of the Wayne County community. In discussing her vision for the Restorative Justice Program, Barbara said, “My goal is to focus on the preventive rather than the punitive.” As a licensed attorney who works in juvenile justice, Barbara said, “By the time a youth is standing beside me in front of a judge, so many opportunities have been lost to redirect their lives. I want to help reclaim some of those opportunities.”
Restorative Justice Programs and Services
Teen Court is a diversion program. When a juvenile commits an offense, his/her charges can either be dismissed, diverted, or directed to the juvenile justice system. If the young offender’s charges are diverted to Teen Court, he/she has the opportunity to receiving a sentence that could possibly leave the young offender with a permanent record and to, instead, have the case defended, prosecuted and decided by members of the youth’s peers.
When young offenders are court-ordered to perform community service, the Community Service component of CSS helps to facilitate the youth’s community service obligation by assisting youth in developing a community service agreement and pairing youth with community service worksites.
Mediation is a voluntary meeting between the victim and offender that is facilitated by a trained mediator. Both are given the opportunity to express their view of the offense, which often helps to dispel misconceptions. The aim of mediation is for the victim and offender to construct a resolution that best achieves justice as it pertains to their particular situation. Sentencing Circles are voluntary encounters between the victim and the offender that also involve the community in the decision-making process. Everyone invited to be a part of the circle—the victim, victim's family, the offender, offender's family, and community representatives—are given a voice in the proceedings. The aim is to give the community, who may have also suffered harm as a result of the offense, an opportunity to be a part of the development of the resolution.
It goes without saying that many youths have a difficult time navigating life’s challenges. The benefits of pairing young people with committed mentors who provide vital guidance are numerous:
Increased high school graduation rates
Higher college enrollment rates
Healthier relationships and lifestyle choices
Enhanced self-esteem and self-confidence
Improved behavior, at home and at school
Improved interpersonal skills
Decreased risk of use of alcohol or drugs