"Livability Crime" video review
Jul 03, 2009
By Dan Van Ness
Livability Crime. Restorative Justice Community Action. 7:08 minutes.
This brief You Tube video describes a programme in Minneapolis operated by a local nonprofit organization called Restorative Justice Community Action (RJCA) in cooperation with the courts.
When defendants are charged with “livability crimes” (drugs dealing, alcohol use, prostitution, vandalism, noise, disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, public urination and littering) the court offers them the opportunity to meet with community members instead in a community conference.
The video captures a conference involving two young men charged with public urination and several community members.
In addition to a well-written script, the video features interviews with
- Gena Gerard, Executive Director of RJCA,
- Richard Hopper, Hennepin County Judge and
- Tim Dolan, Minneapolis Police Chief
- Karen Barstad, a resident of one of the targeted neighbourhoods
Livability Crimes – sometimes called Quality of Life Crimes – are ones that, although relatively minor, make living in a community unpleasant. If they persist they can contribute to the deterioration of the neighborhood, lower property values, and so forth. But while they may be a significant concern to residents, as the interview with Karen Barstad demonstrates, they are insignificant to the police and courts which are more concerned about serious crimes.
Restorative justice, then, becomes an alternative to a fine. While research has shown that restorative justice may actually have a greater impact on recidivism when used with more serious – even violent – crimes with particular victims, RJCA’s strength is that it offers a constructive outlet for community members who are frustrated with what is happening in their neighbourhoods.
Indeed, RJCA is an example of a community-initiated programme that was started in response to a local problem. Over time it has developed an impressive list of system and community partners (Go to the RJCA website, click on About Us and then on Partners).
Of great interest is how community service projects are carried out. RJCA organizes regular clean-up projects in the targeted neighbourhoods, and offenders join them as part of their community service. Community service is most restorative when the work relates to the offence, when the offender agrees to perform it (rather than being ordered to do it) and when community members and offenders work together, demonstrating that the work is important to the community.
This is a relatively short video – just over 7 minutes. It shows an actual conference (with the faces of the offenders concealed). Its only drawback for use in general restorative justice presentations is the low-level crimes that it targets, which may give viewers the impression that these are the only crimes that can be resolved restoratively.
For more information, visit RJCA’s website.