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Casper Hosts First Restorative Justice Conference in Wyoming

Tom Morton, Townsquare Media
Tom Morton, Townsquare Media

Wyoming will get its first look at the restorative justice movement that intends to transform the entire legal system, families, workplaces and politics at a symposium this week in Casper.

“It will begin with an overview of the origins of restorative justice and the philosophy, its principles, its practices and the outcomes that it can provide,” said Jen Miner, chairwoman of Natrona County Restorative Justice.

The symposium begins Tuesday evening and continues through Thursday at the Ramkota hotel, 800 N. Poplar St.

In January, Miner told the Casper City Council that restorative justice offers opportunities for people to be accountable for the harm they’ve caused, and to give opportunities for victims to be a part of that process when decisions, such as sentencings, are made.

About a hundred people from around the state had signed up for the symposium by Friday, she said. They include educators, probation officers, attorneys, representatives of churches and other faith communities

Some of the speakers are judges for juvenile courts in Georgia and Idaho; victim services coordinators; a former convict who is now a pastor; educators; corrections officers; police officers; and family members of murder victims.

The final session will offer strategies for communities to get started, Miner said.

A lot of communities choose to start in schools because many of them already have anti-bullying programs, she said.

The upfront costs in time and personnel may be a concern, but the payoff is worth it, Miner said.

Schools, for example, spend a lot of effort in discipline and restorative justice practices can mitigate those costs.

“If you’re reducing school suspensions, kids being expelled from school, they’re savings in that — not only monetary savings but we’re saving our kids,” she said. “They’re staying in school.”

Some institutions opt to set up programs internally, while others refer to other agencies that offer restorative services, Miner said. “The fact that most restorative justice programs involve and utilize volunteers, that is a cost savings, that is not extra staff that you’re having to hire.”

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