CAMDEN, Maine — Putting victims and their offenders together in the same room and letting them “work it out,” as Lauren Abramson, the founder of the Community Conferencing Center in Baltimore, put it, may seem a tad naive.
In fact, it can be a more effective — and perhaps more serious — approach to juvenile justice than what judges and prosecutors do now, which often amounts to no more than temporary incarceration and release.
As evidence, take this: The dismissal rate in the juvenile justice system in Baltimore, a city with one of the worst crime rates in the country, is around 50 percent. That means half the young offenders who cycle through the court system, for anything from robbery to felony assault, are released without so much as a lecture. “It’s either not much happens, or you get put in detention,” Abramson said of the youth offenders. “A lot of them do see it as a joke.”