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We redesigned our youth program!

Updated: Oct 20, 2022

Big news! We redesigned our youth program to better align with the restorative justice values that drive our organization. Moving forward, our programming will be needs-based rather than offense-based, and it will focus on comprehensively addressing the lived experiences of the young people in our community.


Specifically, we’ve changed the structure of our restorative meetings to create better conditions for addressing impact, we’re offering skill-building workshops, and we’re pouring our energy into helping youth make plans for their futures post-process. We're also offering multiple forms of restorative processes, which are determined by the needs of the affected party. You can learn more about how we're shifting our programming on our website. For right now, though, we want to share why we've made these changes.

A doodle from our Anger To Action workshop

We know that young people move through the world a lot differently than adults do. During adolescence, the brain development that supports good judgement, consequential thinking, and impulse control is not yet complete (Sered). This can make it difficult for teenagers to weigh their decisions and reliably choose behaviors that allow them and those around them to flourish. But this period in a person's life brings with it an enormous potential for positive change, too.


We want to ensure that our approach both reflects the challenges that young people face and fully supports them in realizing their capacity for growth.


In alignment with this emphasis, our new restorative meetings aim to better help youth get the support they need to make meaningful amends to impacted parties and to themselves. We hope to empower participants while nurturing their development on an individual, case-by-case basis. One of our primary goals for the redesign was equalizing our process for youth that have such variance in home life by becoming more responsive to these differences.


When youth feel safe, connected and well understood, they have a greater capacity to receive what emerges during a restorative process: empathy for those who have been impacted by their actions, a deeper understanding of the root causes of their behavior, and an opportunity to plan how to get their needs met without causing more harm in the future.

Onions from our youth-grown youth justice garden

In this uniquely challenging time in history, we’re upholding our belief that young people are accountable to their communities and that communities, in every shape and form, are accountable to the young people who live among them. We hope these changes will increase our capacity to create restorative and transformative paths toward equity, safety, and justice.


Questions? Contact Kelly Ahrens at khrens@burlingtonvt.gov.


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Works Cited:

Sered, D. Fostering accountability among young adults. Harvard Kennedy School. https://www.hks.harvard.edu/centers/wiener/programs/criminaljustice/research-publications/young-adult-justice/developments-in-young-adult-justice/fostering-accountability-among-young-adults



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