Louisville Leaders Push Program for Creative Crime Punishment

Keith Bush owns Boss Hogs BBQ in Louisville’s Park DuValle neighborhood. The restaurant was recently vandalized by a neighborhood kid.

“It was about $1,300 to $1,500  worth of damage,” he says.

After hearing about the case, members of Restorative Justice Louisville reached out to Bush and told him about a new program that the city has piloted since 2011.

Restorative justice is a way for victims and offenders to decide creative, less punitive responses to certain crimes.

“What we gave the parent and the individual an opportunity to do, was to put that [money] in a college savings account and he also had to do some community service,” Bush says.

Louisville is trying to expand its restorative justice pilot program that provides certain youth offenders the opportunity to avoid traditional court punishments. Officials say they hope to expand the program–which is currently only available in Shawnee, Portland, Park DuValle and California neighborhoods–but say the program needs more community support.

Bush’s agreement with the 16-year-old youth that vandalized his restaurant was just one of several restorative justice responses that can replace traditional court proceedings, which are estimated to cost $3,100 or nearly three times as much as facilitating a case using restorative justice.

Judge Angela McCormick-Bisig helped introduced the program in Louisville as a pilot in 2011. 

“The solution may be some things that are penalty like for them but it also may be them thinking, ‘Oh I really did change this family forever, how can I help fix that,’” she says.

Restorative Justice Louisville–which helps mediate the response between the courts, those involved and the community–currently operates with a budget around $30,000 and the non-profit use volunteers to help run the program, said RJL executive director Libby Mills. 

RJL is now trying to raise $260,000 to expand the program in the juvenile justice system and to eventually offer it county-wide and extend it to the adult justice system.

Participation is voluntary, but officials say there have been 30 cases resolved since 2011 and several more cases pending. The goal, says Mills, is to increase the number of cases to 150 per year. 

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer addressed attendees Monday in support of expanding restorative justice, saying it goes along with the city’s dedication to compassion.

Fischer also reaffirmed his decision to hire his new Safe Neighborhoods Director Anthony Smith, whose job, in part, includes working between Metro Government and the community to establish initiatives that support recommendations made by Louisville’s violence prevention task force last year.

Louisville’s Public Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt also addressed the group gathered at the Jefferson County courthouse and said there are many elements of restorative justice that address recommendations made by the task force, though the group didn’t directly recommend restorative justice in its report.

Devin Katayama

Devin Katayama host middays for WFPL and reports on education and other Louisville issues.

@DevinWFPL

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