County to hold restorative justice training sessions in Camden

Aim is to reduce number of youth in the justice system

The restorative justice training sessions will feature healing circles, where community members will come together and have conversations. (Special to The Sun)

Camden County and Camden City, along with the nonprofit Restorative Center, will sponsor free restorative justice training sessions in the latter location on Jan. 19 and Jan. 20.

The sessions for families, community members and stakeholders are part of a three-year state pilot program started in 2021 to “implement trauma-informed restorative justice practices in public schools.” 

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At the end of the three years, the county will have a decision to make: whether it wants to continue with the program or drop it. County commissioners are currently leaning toward keeping the program and even expanding it, according to County Commissioner Jonathan Young.

The hope is to have the restorative hub – still in its early phases – up and running by June 2023 to serve as both a one-stop resource center to provide youth with education training, after- school mentoring and mental-health services. The hub could help oversee and implement restorative justice practices in the community.

“This is something that’s really starting to move and we want to be on the cutting edge of it,” Young said. “ … We want to create an atmosphere where we’re putting folks back out into society educated, ready to go to work, ready to give back.”

Rosy Arroyo, Youth Services Commission administrator for Camden County, elaborated.

“Restorative justice is recognizing the harm done to a community so that community can come together and heal through a process of circle keeping, through mediation, care, vulnerability, concern and really, community love,” she explained.

Though the grant and program are primarily focused on reducing the amount of young people impacted by the justice system or school detention, suspension and expulsion, the county has a larger goal of creating a restorative city and expanding the practice throughout the county. 

The county has partnered with seven school districts and police departments to further conversations about restorative justice. Besides Camden City, they include Gloucester Township, Winslow, Pennsauken, Cherry Hill, Lindenwold and Pine Hill.

“We can’t just focus on the young person and think everything’s going to be okay,” Arroyo said. “We want to make sure that what’s surrounding them is moving in that same positive direction,  so we can make sure they’re successful. Otherwise we can keep putting Band-aids on a situation and it won’t work out.”

Besides families, community members and stakeholders, the training sessions will enable  school administrators to understand restorative justice practices by partaking in a healing circle. They will also offer general information on how restorative justice affects.

“It’s not a lecture,” Young pointed out. “Everyone is literally sitting in a circle and having a conversation and finding out what the ups and downs are, what the boundaries are, how does this affect me and how does it affect you? 

“It brings everything together.”

Camden County will hold more training sessions during the year, including a three-day intensive gathering in March, a restorative justice youth summit where trained Camden City students will train other students in April, and week-long, conference-style training in the summer.

The Thursday, Jan. 19 session geared to families will run from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Salvation Army Kroc Center, 1865 Harrison Ave., Camden. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. The Friday, Jan. 20 session for the community and system stakeholders, will run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m. at Camden City’s Florio Building, Room 119-120, 200 Federal St.

Registration is limited, and food will be provided. To sign up, visit

Contact Rosy Arroyo at (856) 225-5017 or email for additional information.

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