Crime fines mean less restorative justice

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February 21, 2005 // UPDATED 1:52 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Jeremy Stratton
Jeremy Stratton

The city's new program to ticket and fine offenders for livability crimes such as public urination has meant fewer participants in Downtown's restorative justice efforts, say leaders of the Central City Neighborhoods Restorative Justice Program

Restorative Justice is a concept wherein low-level offenders meet with a community panel to understand and apologize for the impact of their actions. Offenders usually perform community service. The goal is to help the community and reduce re-offenses.

Last year, in an effort to get tough on livability crimes and reduce no-shows in court, the city instituted civil fines for which it could use bill collectors. In a report released last May, the city said more people are paying fines under the new system. The report also said the system does not yet pay for itself, costing about $1,000 more a month than fines bring in.

Many offenders chose fines because it is an easier option, Restorative Justice Community Coordinator Emily Buehler said, reducing participants in her program.

Buehler told the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association (DMNA) board in early February that Chief Hennepin County District Court Judge Lucy Weiland would ask fellow judges to transfer four offenses back to the court system. The four offenses - drug paraphernalia possession, public urination, consuming in public and loitering- are some of the program's core cases, Buehler said.

Buehler also told the board that Restorative Justice is now an independent nonprofit organization, and that it might change its name.