Bringing justice to the community

Restorative Justice is a program that supports community service and involvement.

The early months of the school year not only bring new students and classes, but also a barrage of drinking tickets to parties on campus and in surrounding neighborhoods. At a single party in Dinkytown last weekend, 53 citations were handed out. That’s as many officers as on staff at the University Department Police.

This influx of tickets comes every year as certain as the snowfall. The University police seem to have more success at picking off college drinkers at the scene of a party in Dinkytown than catching armed criminals who hold students up on campus and steal our cars. This troubling point aside, the UMPD and residential life are teaming up to offer a helping hand to the hundreds of minors ticketed every year by implementing the Restorative Justice Program into the residential halls.

The Restorative Justice Program allows students who have been ticketed for minor consumption to meet with the effected community and do service work in lieu of paying the $175 fine, which also comes with associated criminal charges. Alcohol consumption charges for minors are a pain and result in an embarrassing taint on one’s record. This record is visible to any employer or school performing a background check, and could possibly hinder employment opportunities or graduate school admittance.

The program was established in surrounding campus areas in 2004 and has helped 900 students get alcohol-related charges dismissed, as reported by the Daily on Monday. Upon expansion, it will aid many res-hall dwellers in the future. Restorative Justice comes as a great relief to students waking up on Sunday morning with a headache and a pink slip.

The fact that the UMPD and the University are offering these sorts of educational and community involvement opportunities rather than labeling college students who drink as criminals is a step in the right direction. Students learn through the community meetings how their choices affect other residents, both students and non-students. It also allows the offenders to pick from a wide array of community service options ranging from reading to kids to sifting through garbage at the University recycling plant.