STORIES
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CSSS Trains Harris County Juvenile Probation Officers in Restorative Justice

More than 25 employees from the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department (HCJPD) and Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program attended a two-day training with Harris County Department of Education’s Center for Safe and Secure Schools about disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline. HCJPD Education Specialist Beverly Nolan said in order to provide optimal resources to their youth based on best practices, they are constantly searching for programs to fit their unique setting. “The Restorative Practice program based on the Circle Forward Concept, is one of those programs,” she said. “It will allow us to respond to challenging behavior in a non-invasive, yet redirecting, way.” The social emotional component allows for building perspective and helps the youth understand the problem and its impact by encouraging them to voice their needs. These county employees will use it as a “community circle” to build foundational relationships; a “responsive circle” when something is happening to respond to the behavior; and a “restorative circle” when harm has been done to someone to repair the harm. Officials with the HCJPD around the country to see if other juvenile justice departments were using this concept, but came across the training at HCDE and decided to send staff. “After meeting with Julia Andrews about the program, we decided to have a customized training for our HCJPD staff,” Nolan said. Later, they found out that a school in New Orleans was using the program and after a site visit decided this was a program they needed to implement. Nolan said she sees numerous benefits coming out of having this program implemented at HCJPD such as creating a positive school climate through the development of community norms and guidelines. “This will help youth deal with triggers, hurts and anger in a safe space through the social emotional component,” she said. “This will also help our staff by building positive working relationships and helping them sustain in a difficult working environment. And finally, the development of youth-led and peer-to-peer circles to help youth focus on a positive vision for their future.” For more information about the Restorative Practice program, visit the Center for Safe and Secure School website at https://hcde-texas.org/safe-and-secure-schools/ or email Julia Andrews at jandrews@hcde-texas.org. Source: HCDE