The Restorative Justice Program Expands Its Age Limit

The Ulster County Restorative Justice Program ensures that children, and now young adults up to the age of 26 who commit nonviolent crimes, receive research-based treatment. Photo courtesy of Ulster County.

Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan and District Attorney David Clegg announced an expansion to the Ulster County Restorative Justice Program on Oct. 8.

Restorative justice is an alternative response to crime or error in judgment in which the individual responsible for a nonviolent crime is guided in finding “alternative paths to make amends.” The original program was only offered to children under the age of 18 and is now expanding to include adolescents and young adults aged 18 to 26. 

“One of the important goals of the Ulster County District Attorney’s Office is to reduce crime by focusing on rehabilitation and preventing recidivism,” DA Clegg said in a press release. “Restorative Justice encourages rehabilitation by requiring full accountability from the offender. Our new Restorative Justice program will help address crime and harm through a lens of increased public safety and healing.” 

The Restorative Justice Program is credited with contributing to the nonviolent reoffending rate in Ulster County being only 6%, compared to the national average of 40%.

The Ulster County program utilizes a technique called “Circles,” or Restorative Justice Conferences. The conferences typically are attended by the offender and those who have been impacted by the offender’s actions both directly and indirectly. 

The adult Restorative Justice Program will include employment and training, substance abuse support and mental health support to help the offenders “achieve success.” 

“Through partnering with our District Attorney and our Sheriff, I am proud that we are able to expand what has already been an incredibly successful, innovative program among our youth to our young adults,” Ryan said in the press release. “Here in Ulster County, we’re setting an example on alternatives to incarceration by making the investment and doing the work to ensure we’re responding to our community with care and compassion.”

Since the program’s launch in 2018, about 300 Circles have been held by the Ulster County program. 

Ulster County implemented the Restorative Justice Program in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “Raise the Age” legislation, which ensures that juveniles ages 16 and 17 who commit non-violent crimes receive intervention-based treatment. 

“Providing young people with age-appropriate facilities and rehabilitation will restore hope and promise and help them turn their lives around to build a better future for themselves, their families and for our great state,” Gov. Cuomo said in the 2018 press release

To get involved with the Restorative Justice Program, there are facilitator training sessions held every third Monday of the month over Zoom, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. To register, contact Kim Mapes at kmap@co.ulster.ny.us.