The use of restorative justice programs in Nebraska was expanded by a bill passed May 13.
Restorative justice programs provide an informal opportunity for a person who causes harm to accept responsibility and for victims to describe the impact of the harm and identify the losses incurred. Programs can include mediation, conferences, panels, projects or classes.
LB595, introduced by Thurston Sen. Joni Albrecht, specifies that any restorative justice agreement reached between parties is considered confidential. It makes any admission, confession or incriminating information obtained through a restorative justice program inadmissible as evidence against a juvenile—except as rebuttal or impeachment evidence—in any future juvenile adjudication or criminal proceeding.
A judge can order an adjudicated juvenile to participate in a restorative justice program based on his or her age, intellectual capacity, living environment or the nature of the case.
LB595 changes membership of the 15-member dispute resolution advisory council to include a district court judge, county court judge and juvenile court judge, as well as representatives from the Office of Parole Administration, Nebraska State Bar Association and Nebraska County Attorneys Association.
It also allows a licensed attorney to act as a mediator in developing parenting plans, if agreed to by all parties.
The bill passed on a 47-0 vote.