In my court, I will implement a program that will provide mediation services for civil cases. The mediation process is private and usually quicker than the court system. Mediators work with all parties to reach a mutual agreement, therefore mediation cases tend to produce an amicable outcome. In essence, people tend to be more satisfied when their cases are settled in mediation, because they engineer their own settlement. This in turn promotes a more efficient court system, establishes peace among the parties, improves community relationships and said outcomes are immeasurably beneficial to the welfare and ambience of our community.
Restorative justice begins with the premise that crime is indicative of a broken relationship between the offender, the victim, and the community. Since crime harms the victim and the community, the primary goals should be to restore the victim and the community, repair harms, rehabilitate the offender, reintegrate the offender into the community, and reduce recidivism/reoccurrence (Texas Public Policy Foundation). Accordingly, in my court, I will use programs designed to meet the aforementioned goals, such as victim offender mediation/reconciliation, family group conferences, community crime prevention, community service, victim support services, and rehabilitation programs for offenders.
The Justice of the Peace Court is usually the first judicial office most young adults encounter. Accordingly, it is imperative for this court to intervene immediately, prior to the rise of crime. Often times when children or young adults wind up in court, it is a manifestation of desperation, as a result of an underlying issue; usually psychological in nature or chemical dependence. Hence, there is tremendous value in targeting those underlying issues to prevent our youth from becoming another statistic in our prison system. In my court, I will use educational and counseling programs targeted at children and young adults who come before me for misdemeanor offenses. These corrective efforts will attempt to remedy the behavior which led to appearing before me and will encompass learning opportunities, which promote community service, civic responsibility, and healthy juvenile growth.
Texas won a colossal battle when it Decriminalized Juvenile Truancy a few years ago. I will work diligently with our local school systems to identify the root cause of the absences, and take steps to eliminate it. In the past, Justices of the Peace have used punitive justice to punish the children and the parents for absences, instead of addressing the root cause, which in many cases has hurt our community even more.
Additionally, I plan to partner with our district schools to engineer a program for elementary, middle, and high school students to visit the courtroom and observe real-life court proceedings. Providing children and young adults the opportunity to engage in civic duties and community service empowers them with a sense of purpose and encourages them to perform their best in school, complete high school, and enroll in college (if it’s their preference). In essence, my court will seek to prevent children and young adults from becoming a victim of the criminal justice system and this will greatly benefit our children, families, and communities.