North American Council for Juvenile Justice (NACJJ) member Elizabeth Clarke carried out a study visit in Belgium and The Netherlands in April to discuss European programmes and meet with representatives from the European Council of Juvenile Justice (ECJJ). Ms. Clarke is the founder and president of Juvenile Justice Initiative, a non-profit policy and advocacy organisation based in Chicago.
Ms. Clarke’s visit was focused on restorative justice (RJ) practices in Belgium and around Europe. Indeed, in the recent years the IJJO has been working with Ms. Clarke to help promote RJ in the US. As a result, a specific NACJJ working group focused on RJ has been set up and has produced a regional policy paper.
During her visit, Ms. Clarke met with four IJJO partners, thus strengthening the collaborations between the NACJJ and the European Council members.
The first meeting was with restorative justice researchers Emanuela Biffi (European Forum for Restorative Justice) and Criminology professor Ivo Aertsen (Leuven Institute of Criminology, Catholic University of Leuven). This was timely for Ms. Clarke because Chicago is about to launch a restorative justice community court for emerging adults in one of the city’s most impacted communities.
Another meeting was organised with ECJJ member Prof. Ton Liefaard, whose team from the Child Law Department at Leiden University (The Netherlands) co-developed with the IJJO the manual and toolkit of the ‘Improving Juvenile Systems in Europe’ project.
Lastly, Ms. Clarke met with Ralph Bunche, regional European director of Fair Trials International, a human rights organisation that works to improve respect for the fundamental human right to a fair trial. The IJJO and Fair Trials International are jointly working on a project of capacity building for lawyers and law professionals, focusing on improving their communication with children in conflict with the law.