The mission of Youth Justice Initiative (YJI) is to provide and sustain restorative processes with youth in our community that promote healing, increase accountability and provide support. The YJI program was developed to provide a better solution to the ever growing numbers of repeat juvenile offenders.
The West Des Moines Police Department’s Youth Justice Initiative was initiated in August of 2000. The program was first funded by an award of a $35,993.00 grant through the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, (JJDP). Program Coordinator Claudia Henning was hired as a consultant to organize and manage the program. Claudia established a 45 member Advisory Group creating a solid foundation for the initiative. The Advisory Group was comprised of individuals who represented the diversities of the community. Committees were formed to address issues concerning structure and organization, program design and development, outreach, victim support and offender support. A sub group made up of a Juvenile Court Officer, Juvenile Judge, Public Defender, County Attorney, City Attorney, Law Enforcement Officials, Educators and Community Members completed the protocol for accepting and managing cases. YJI began accepting cases in January of 2001.
The Wes Des Moines Youth Justice Initiative is a community - based participatory restorative justice process. YJI engages crime victims and community members in the justice process, holding young offenders directly accountable to the people and community they have harmed, restoring as far as possible the losses of victims and providing a range of opportunities for dialoging and problem solving whenever possible, which can lead to a greater sense of community safety, social harmony and peace for all.
The YJI program received a national honor in 2005. On September 26, 2005, the program was the recipient of the 2005 IACP/Motorola Webber Survey Award for Quality in Law Enforcement.
The Youth Justice Initiative continues to thrive and has recently added a new component, the Resiliency Project. This program centers on resiliency measures for youth who may not have been charged with a crime, but who may be in difficult situations and need extra support. While those referrals currently come from area schools, there has been discussion about integrating referrals from police in to the resiliency effort.
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