Program sees high involvment in Marcy-Holmes

As of last month, the neighborhood had 165 cases enrolled in the restorative-justice program.

Derrick Biney

A program that gives misdemeanor offenders a second chance has had more than twice the participation in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood as the rest of the city.

Emily Buehler, community coordinator for the restorative-justice program, told Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association leaders last month that the neighborhood has 165 cases enrolled in the program.

The other seven participating neighborhoods in Minneapolis have 60 cases.

The Marcy-Holmes neighborhood, the University’s Minneapolis campus and the Como neighborhood have participated in the Central City Neighborhoods Partnership Restorative Justice Program since July.

“The program was created out of the need to address livability issues; underage consumption, property damage, public consumption and public urination,” Buehler said.

Restorative justice was one way the community could have an impact on how these types of issues were resolved, Buehler said.

“The goal of restorative justice is to repair the harm that’s been done by an incident,” she said.

Livability issues refer primarily to the safety and property maintenance of a neighborhood’s residential area, said Ardes Johnson, a member of the Marcy-Holmes’ Neighborhood Association livability community.

Through face-to-face meetings called “community conferences,” offenders and community members are given a chance to talk about the impact of an offender’s actions. Community volunteers then determine what restitution will be. At the minimum, it can include doing service in the neighborhood of the offense, Buehler said.

Johnson, who recently attended one of the conferences, said she was impressed by student offenders’ understanding of how their actions affect the University community.

Wendy Menken, board member of the Southeast Como Improvement Association, said the improvement association is “bringing in tools for a mediation approach, not a confrontation approach.”

In October, the University and Minneapolis police 2nd Precinct teamed up with the restorative-justice program. Since then, they have created a referral system that keeps some offenders out of the criminal court system. The referral system allows offenders who qualify for the program to avoid paying the fines for misdemeanor charges and have the offense dropped from their record, Buehler said.

Mark Karon, director of Student Legal Services, said many students are not aware of how a misdemeanor can affect their future.

“A misdemeanor can be very devastating when students look to prosper in their career,” he said.

The program gives offenders a second chance to think about the impact of their behavior in the neighborhood, Johnson said.

She said the program is good for the neighborhoods, but the biggest problem it has is getting community members to volunteer their time.