With our Celebration for Children’s Rights coming up on March 24th, we’re excited to introduce our Pascal Calogero Champion of Justice awardee for 2022: Troi Bechet.
“Whenever juvenile crime makes headlines, the default response from politicians and the public alike is that we need more arrests, more prosecutions, and more incarceration,” says LCCR’s Executive Director, Aaron Clark-Rizzio. “And yet, study after study has shown that the deeper a child goes into the legal system, the more likely he or she is to commit additional and potentially more serious offenses. In short, the “tough on crime” approach is counterproductive and actually increases risk while decreasing public safety.”
“For more than a decade, Ms. Bechet has shown that, when teenagers cause harm—even serious harm—accountability can be achieved in ways that effectively change behavior and promote public safety. In short, she’s actually doing what the justice system purports to do. We need more people like Ms. Bechet championing real solutions for reducing juvenile crime—especially right now here in New Orleans. For her role as a trailblazer in our community, we’re grateful to honor her with this year’s award.”
Ms. Bechet began her advocacy on behalf of juvenile legal system-involved children more than a decade ago with her founding of the Center for Restorative Approaches. Through its restorative justice model, CRA provides our communities with the training and tools that build relationships and that allow for those most impacted by conflict and crime to develop their own solutions and ways of repairing harm.
So what is restorative justice? It is a victim-centered approach to accountability that brings the harmed individual and the child responsible for that harm together, as willing participants, for a facilitated discussion. Having to face the person they’ve harmed has been described by participants as being harder – and more transformative – than any punishment the legal system currently delivers.
From there, the child takes responsibility for his or her actions by working with the harmed individual on a plan to make amends. The plan can include restitution, community service, a commitment to attend school, or any number of things.
“Restorative Justice diversion programs around the country have been operating effectively for decades,” says Ms. Bechet at a 2019 City Council presentation. “These programs address victim needs in ways that produce much higher satisfaction rates than traditional justice system processes and hold youth accountable for their mistakes in ways that foster resilience and responsibility in them.”
For most children involved, engaging with the person they’ve harmed has helped them understand the consequences of their choices and change their behavior moving forward. In fact, children who participated in a victim-offender mediation were rearrested at a 32% lower rate than those who did not.
CRA is the only organization exclusively and explicitly advocating for restorative justice, and the only organization in New Orleans facilitating restorative circles. Since its founding, CRA has facilitated nearly 1,400 restorative circles and trained more than 2,000 staff to reduce school suspensions and break the school-to-prison pipeline.
Most recently, CRA entered into an agreement with the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office to provide restorative justice programming as a diversion option for children in the juvenile legal system. This is a first for the City of New Orleans. While in its early stages, we anticipate this diversion offering, if utilized properly, will have a huge impact on arrested youth.
In addition to CRA, Ms. Bechet is vocal in New Orleans’ advocacy community. In 2019, she helped co-found the Youth Justice Advocates, a collective of nearly three-dozen local organizing and advocacy partners dedicated to reshaping the legal system to one that treats kids like kids, ends the criminalization of Black youth, and prioritizes healing instead of punishment. Through the development of its Platform for Youth Justice, YJA played a large role in re-centering the narrative around children in the legal system during the 2020 District Attorney and Juvenile Court elections. YJA continues to use the Platform to hold elected officials accountable and make its vision for a safer and healthier New Orleans a reality.
For her more than 30 years of work in the social justice sphere, and her tireless promotion of restorative justice as an alternative for reducing harm and achieving juvenile accountability, we are thrilled to present Ms. Bechet with this year’s Calogero Champion of Justice Award.
Join us as we honor Ms. Bechet at this year’s Celebration of Children’s Rights event. Click here to RSVP.
LCCR’s Champion of Justice Award is named to honor the legacy of the late Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Pascal Calogero Jr., a staunch advocate for children’s rights who helped usher in groundbreaking juvenile justice reforms in the early 2000s.