Center for Restorative Youth Justice

Monday, December 16, 2019/Categories: 2017 Recipients/Tags:

The Center for Restorative Youth Justice (CRYJ)  works from a foundational belief that all people have value and worth - and that our communities are most effective when we feel safe to connect with each other.  CRYJ’s restorative programming offers deep levels of relationship-oriented accountability & support.  We embrace a trauma informed alternative to community harm and wrong doing - focusing on programming that proactively addresses the high public costs associated with youth incarceration, suspension, and expulsion.

Since its inception in 2010, CRYJ has served more than 2,500 youth in Flathead County, and have contributed to a community cost savings of more than half a million dollars through a shift from high cost detention models to greater support and availability of low level interventions and diversion programming.

The Center for Restorative Youth Justice focus their programming around restorative justice practice.  A restorative approach provides a way to build community, while also intervening with problems in ways that can be transformative for all involved.  Restorative Justice offers a paradigm shift in the way we think of crime or breaking rules. Its principles teach us to think not only about the off ender but also about the victim; not only about the court but also about the community; not only about the law or the rules that were broken - but also about the real impacts on the people around you.  The big shift is from rules (or laws) to relationships.  Restorative Practices are not a singular program or process, but instead a philosophy and practice based on a core set of principles that emphasize:

  • healing and repair over punishment
  • inclusion over exclusion
  • individual accountability with a high level of community support and investment

Key Statistics

  • Ninety-eight percent Youth who participate in CRYJ’s Restorative Programming are more likely to complete all probation requirements - including restitution to victims.  Youth participants are more likely to stay in school and to follow through on chemical dependency recommendations.
  • Since 2010 - CRYJ has provided alternative diversion programming to more than 38% of all cases referred to juvenile probation in Flathead County.  These youths are offered the chance to have their charges dismissed - and benefit from a diverse offering of relationship oriented workshops.
  • Youth who complete CRYJ’s Restorative Programming model are three times less likely to go on to commit additional offenses.  In contrast - nationally, 75% of youth charged with an offense continue to recidivate.

Model Programs


In 2016 we launched The Trellis Project.  Born from a desire to create and expand opportunities for at-risk youth to have access to meaningful and empowering activities - The Trellis Project is a partnership with Kalispell Public School to take on the maintenance and harvesting of the district’s school gardens - which in turn supply the district’s food services program with organic youth-grown produce.  This summer, CRYJ participants harvested more than 1,700 pounds of organic produce, while building important job and life skills through a hands-on garden based curriculum.


CRYJ staff and a group of eight team members from Flathead County were accepted to Georgetown University’s School - Justice Partnerships Certificate Program.  The local team was selected as one out of only seven in the nation.  CRYJ is deeply committed to school partnerships - and working across agency lines to bring more restorative and trauma-informed approaches to behavior interventions.  Motivated in part by the Georgetown program - CRYJ expanded programming in 2016 to emphasize several school partnership models that will address both the immediate and long term needs of students known to, or at risk of entering, the juvenile justice system.


In August, we held our 3rd Annual Farm to Table Dinner on site at the beautiful Two Bear Farm.  For us, this event tells a beautiful ‘full circle’ experience created by CRYJ’s programming.  Youth not only grew and harvested some of the food served at the event, but were able to work alongside award winning chefs to create and prepare the menu.  What was especially exciting about the 2016 event was the opportunity to leverage donations through participation in Whitefish Community Foundation’s Great Fish Challenge.  Through the generous support of more than 100 donors, and a community match provided by the foundation - CRYJ raised more than $31,000 to fund the Trellis Project & Youth Leadership Team.


CRYJ offers Youth Leadership Internship positions during the summer months.  Through workshops and one-on-one mentoring - these interns played a leadership role in the garden, and were encouraged to expand their job skills while also serving as peer leaders for other participants.  Youth Leadership Team members were all graduates of CRYJ’s programming - and received a stipend at the end of their summer service.  100% of the Youth Leadership Team interns transitioned into full-time paid positions with local restaurants and caterers after the summer program.


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