SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Justice, faster, for both victim and the person who did the crime.
Greene County is leading the way statewide in a program that touts it can make that happen. The Restorative Justice Program is clearing courtrooms and bringing about quick closure. That closure is really two-fold; it's both emotional and a closed case.
Since 2008, Greene County has been the only county in Missouri to allow offenders and those they've victimized to meet, have a conversation about what happened, and decide on a punishment together.
Something smells wonderful in Sandy Dunning's kitchen. "Just sausage and hashbrowns?" she asks her son.
But something smelled fishy when her cell phone suddenly turned up missing.
"I got a call from the Willard school counselor and she said, 'I can't give you names,' but a student actually came to her and was concerned, because she told her another student had my phone and was running up a lot of text messages and long distance calls," Sandy remembers.
Sandy's neighbor, a teenage girl in the foster care system, stole the phone. And those calls and texts totaled more than $400.
"I immediately started getting calls from grandmothers and mothers saying she was harassing them and if I didn't stop calling them she would press charges."
Turns out, though, no one pressed charges. Sandy and the girl agreed to participate in a program called Restorative Justice.
"There's never a charge filed. So if an offender elects to take part in the program, we don't clog the court with those cases," explains Greene County Prosecuting Attorney, Dan Patterson.
"She was a senior in high school and I didn't want that to be on her record," Sandy seconds. Plus Sandy wanted her money back, so the program seemed like the perfect fit.
"That program has been successful with participation and lowering recidivism's rates," says Director of Missouri State University's Center for Dispute Resolution Charlene Berquist.