Restorative justice for juveniles still wasn’t widely accepted when 16-year-old Diego Carballo-Oliveros finished his time in King County’s alternative program and, two weeks later, was charged with first-degree murder.
The Seattle Times reports Carballo-Oliveros told a crowd of people that he was sorry for the robberies he previously committed. It appeared the restorative justice system — involving peacemaking circles that are focused on putting troubled youth on a better path — was working.
Carballo-Oliveros then allegedly stabbed a 15-year-old to death.
“He was offered this chance to go through the peace making process, and it’s quite lengthy, it can go on for a year,” Seattle Times Reporter Claudia Rowe told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross. “The victims said ‘OK’ … he was charged with two robberies. Very shortly after that peace circle that I was at, Diego was charged with first degree murder for his part in the stabbing death of a 15-year-old kid. He is one of three accused assailants. They have not been tried yet. They were all charged with first degree murder for stabbing a 15-year-old kid in West Seattle a day before his sophomore year at Chief Sealth High School.”
The question now becomes: Does restorative justice have a future in King County?
“I think it does have a future … because I think there is research showing that kids are more amenable to treatments than adults,” Rowe said. “You can change a kid. There are young men who have been through this who are charged with serious crimes, who are in my story, who have changed their trajectory. They are in school. They are employed. And they are doing things of use to the community … in a very small way, it is proving the merit of proceeding.”
However, the county will proceed in a more careful way. Rowe says county officials need to create more formalized criteria for who gets into the program and what the consequences are if they don’t show improvement.
“The prosecution is saying, ‘Yeah, that’s about the worst outcome you could anticipate,’” Rowe said. “But they point out, quite rightly, when they go through the traditional system of trying a kid and locking them up, kids come out and commit very serious crimes; when they go through the normal system as well. So they said, ‘Yes, this was a risk. This was an awful outcome. But it is not going to deter us from the chance that more kids could be helped and deterred from criminal paths.’”
The case of Diego Carballo-Oliveros is probably the worst outcome, Rowe said, citing prosecutors.
But locking kids up doesn’t prevent youth and adults alike from commuting future crimes either. That’s why, according to Rowe, it won’t deter supporters of restorative justice from moving forward.
Chief deputy prosecutor of King County’s juvenile division Jimmy Hung recently told the Ron and Don Show that our current justice system is outdated. Restorative justice will lead to a brighter future.
“For a long time we’ve approached juveniles criminal offending like adult criminal offending,” he said. “It’s a lot of people doing their best using outdated tools.”
Listen to the entire interview with Rowe here.