CRYJ’s programming aims to provide our community’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged youth with access to healthy and productive futures. Our restorative programming is founded on a “whole child approach,” with a deep belief that there are no throwaway youth or people – and that our communities are safer and stronger when we are able to care for each other.
CRYJ creates the opportunity for dialogue between victims, youth offenders & community volunteers – encouraging and supporting youth to take accountability for their actions while developing important skills and resiliencies. We believe all youth are an important and integral part of our community, and build our programming with a strong dedication and commitment those youth and victims who are in greatest need of hope and connection.
Our programs bring an integration of restorative programming models. We combine service-based activities, life skill workshops, and high levels of individualized adult and peer support to help youth find their strengths and move out of cycles of harm, incarceration, poverty, violence, and a lack of connection to school and community. We have worked with more than 1700 Flathead Valley youth since 2009, and continue to offer services to all youth in need.
We are based in Kalispell, Montana and work with agencies, institutions and individuals around the nation to promote restorative responses to community harm.
What is Restorative Justice?
“The role of justice, as portrayed by Lady Justice’s scales, is to bring back balance, to make things right again. Punishment and the warehousing of human beings in prisons destroys vast amounts of human potential.
By contrast, restorative justice meets the needs of everyone involved in the most humane ways possible – those who commit crimes, and those who suffer from them. In so doing, it brings humanity back into the justice system. It converts a limited worldview based around isolation and individualism into a much more positive vision that is rooted in honesty, accountability, and the visible connection of causes with effects. And it works in concrete terms by cutting recidivism and costs. Most important of all, it nurtures new relationships and a strong sense of human unity.
In this sense, the root power of restorative justice is love expressed in action.”
– “Six boys, one cop, and the road to restorative justice” by Molly Rowan Leach
Who We Work With
Being a teenager in the world today is risky business. Many of CRYJ’s youth are exposed to a great many risks and realities including alcohol and drug dependency, pregnancy, violence, incarcerated family members, neglect/abandonment. Failing to intervene or to provide crucial support for these youth increase the likelihood of prolonged poverty, increased physical danger, or the likelihood of incarceration.
In order to best serve our community, it is crucially important that we understand the risks and realities that face our young people.
- In 2011, 26% of high school students in Flathead County typically consumed 5 or more drinks in a row more than 2x a month
- When surveyed, 40% of 8-12 grade students felt disconnected from their community
- 18% of high school students seriously considered taking their own lives in 2012
These problems and risks are often so immense and overwhelming that many adults throw up their hands in frustration—and in turn many teens are written off as “unsalvageable”.
The term “at-risk” is often thrown around to describe programs that provide targeted services to young adults—specifically teenagers whose family/social experience and lifestyle choices put them at a greater risk of physical harm, substance use/abuse, delinquency, and economic hardship.
The data below provides a quick snapshot of youth participants—Out of 213 youth surveyed:
- 91 lived below the poverty line
- 10 had been victims of physical, psychological, or sexual abuse
- 18 served time in a juvenile detention facility
- 51 were children of alcoholics/substance abusers
- 24 had received help or treatment for mental health
- 25 have considered or attempted suicide
- 5 were or had been pregnant
- 38 dropped out of school
At CRYJ, we believe in using restorative programming as a means of supporting youth in their navigation and survival of these realities—ensuring that our young people have the coping mechanisms in place to help prevent their entry into high risk practices.
CRYJ firmly believes that the pathway to success for many of our youth participants lies in the program’s ability to broaden not only an understanding of impacts and empathy—but perhaps most importantly an opportunity to move through this accountability supported by adults and volunteers who enthusiastically believe in their success.
With a completion rate of 96%, CRYJ is one of the strongest most successful restorative youth programs in the nation.
Victims of Juvenile Crime:
A crucial foundation of CRYJ’s programming is the empowerment and individualized consideration provided to victims of juvenile crime in Flathead County. Working in close partnership with Flathead County’s Juvenile Probation, County Attorney’s Office, and the 11th Judicial District – CRYJ’s Victim Impact Program provides services and support to all victims of crime in our community. Referrals to this program come to CRYJ’s Victim Impact Program Coordinator – who then reaches out to provide support and acknowledgement to victims. This support includes the opportunity to voice and share impacts with youth offenders, probation officers, and judges through the completion of a Victim Impact Statement. These statements are utilized to help frame accountability and to set court and probation requirements – creating an opportunity for victims to participate directly in the justice process and to ensure that their voice and impacts are acknowledged. CRYJ’s Victim Impact Program Coordinator also works closely with County Attorneys and Juvenile Probation Officers to keep victims up-to-date on formal court proceedings – including hearings, sentencing, and any follow-up with restitution and compensation. Court accompaniment and assistance is also a powerful offering delivered by this innovative program.
Through CRYJ’s restorative programming options victims are also offered an opportunity to meet directly with their offenders through CRYJ’s Victim Offender Conferences (see detailed explanation below). For those cases where the victim chooses not to participate – impact statements and restitution requirements are communicated to youth offenders and incorporated into all restorative accountability plans. Creating an opportunity for direct accountability, empathy development, and a broadened understanding of impacts and realities.
- Provide a human approach to crime that looks at those most impacted—providing individualized and relevant support that treats everyone (victims, youth, families) with honor and respect
- Bring youth and victims together to allow human-to-human contact between victims and offenders be what sets the ‘terms of accountability’ not simply the requirements set by courts or through imposed fines
- Build a safe and supportive space for youth to develop important competencies that will lead to healthy lives with the end goal of reducing juvenile delinquency and making our community safer
- Create empowering opportunities to help survivors of crime transcend isolation, fear, and anger—regaining personal power by communicating impacts of the crime, needs and how they can be met