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Promoting Empathy through Equitable Resolution

PEER provides an effective and equitable approach to the traditional legal and school disciplinary systems.    

CYFA’s Promoting Empathy through Equitable Resolution (PEER ) program applies restorative practice to address harmful behavior. It is a public-private partnership that works to keep children and youth out of systems of harm, improve youth opportunity, and sustain community safety.  

A restorative approach to justice goes beyond punishment through facilitated dialogue that both ensures accountability and repairs relationships. PEER differs from other restorative programs because it empowers youth to resolve disputes in a peer-to-peer setting supported by trained restorative practitioners.



Available to young people ages 10 to 17 who have engaged in harmful behavior that would amount to a misdemeanor or nonviolent felony. 


Community-based, youth-led diversion program so that the parties are not involved in the juvenile legal system or school disciplinary system. Youth facilitators are trained in PEER’s comprehensive curriculum.


Provides for meaningful accountability, is trauma- and victim-centered, and provides for successful community reintegration.  


Participation is entirely voluntary and it is victim-centered and driven.  Admission of harm is required.

Restorative Practice v. Retributive Justice

At its core, the justice system is the government’s response to crime.  In the United States, the traditional response seeks to punish certain behaviors and, to a lesser extent, rehabilitate those who engage in them.  This process largely ignores the victim’s needs, the community’s input, and the harm’s underlying cause.  Since the traditional justice system’s reliance on incarceration has had disparate impacts on minority communities while also failing to reduce recidivism, punitive justice compels re-examination. 

Restorative justice differs from traditional forms because it pursues different goals – it ensures accountability, repairs relationships, and restores victims and the community.

Restorative practitioners bring together the person who caused harm, the person who was harmed, and the impacted community through facilitated dialogue:

PEER empowers the person harmed by providing a voice in the outcome and an opportunity to heal

PEER enables the person who engaged in harm to learn from his/her mistakes and make amends

PEER allows the community to affirm its values and re-invest in its members.


PEER’s Goals

PEER is a youth-led, victim-centered restorative practice program, structured within the Search Institute’s Assets framework, to divert young people from the juvenile legal and school disciplinary systems for behaviors attributable to adolescence. PEER creates partnerships between key stakeholders and the community to allow young people to avoid formal legal system involvement and reduced loss of instruction time due to disciplinary sanctions.

PEER confers power to community in relation to institution to disestablish historical systemic trauma and oppression. PEER goals are:

Reduce minority representation in the juvenile legal system & school disciplinary proceedings
Provide accountability without collateral consequences of legal or disciplinary records
Empower and engage impacted persons and community to repair harm and rebuild relationships
Reduce the likelihood of future harmful offenses
Develop leaders with confidence, skill, knowledge, & empathy to create just & equitable systems

PEER is a holistic, community-based program. 


PEER’s Methodology

Any person can refer a young person to PEER for behavior resulting in harm – a peer, parent, community member, law enforcement officer, teacher, or school official can refer a young person to PEER for an action that would amount to a misdemeanor or nonviolent felony. Participation in PEER is entirely voluntary. 

PEER offers the ability to resolve matters affecting young people outside of the legal system – true (pre-charge) diversion. PEER also can be used as a diversion option, dispositional tool, and other option to prevent further entrenchment into the juvenile legal system.

CYFA is committed to honoring self-determination of all parties involved in PEER. Restorative practice requires the person who committed the harm to acknowledge wrongdoing. If the person alleged to have engaged in wrongdoing is not willing to voluntarily admit committing the harmful act, PEER cannot be used.

Each PEER referral is evaluated prior to acceptance. Once a matter is accepted by PEER, a participant can expect the following:


Separate meetings with all parties involved to understand the harm.

Restorative Conference

Meetings for parties to understand needs, harms, impacts of harms, & develop a plan to move forward.

Plan Completion

Process by which requirements set forth in the plan are completed.


Provides additional closure to the restorative process.

Restorative justice is born in community – PEER is held by community meaning its processes operate outside of the formal legal and disciplinary systems.

PEER’s restorative conferencing processes are held by experienced restorative practitioners and co-facilitated by PEER Ambassadors – youth trained in the PEER curriculum. 

Restorative practice allows communities to vision healing and community well-being. Restorative practice galvanizes communities to reimagine community safety through system transformation.

Anti-Racist Curriculum

PEER’s curriculum is grounded in an active learning praxis where each PEER Ambassador:

Learns from the actions and outputs of the training itself; and
Supports and empowers self-regulated learning by promoting use of critical thinking skills to advance new insights, points of view, innovative responses and results

PEER training provides PEER Ambassadors the skills, confidence, and expertise to co-facilitate restorative conferencing with experienced restorative practitioners.  The PEER curriculum cultivates deeper learning to foster and support complex critical thinking skills and decision-making skills, and it builds and amplifies leadership skills.  PEER Ambassadors are trained to have the skills, confidence, and expertise to co-facilitate restorative conferencing with experienced restorative practitioners.

The PEER evidence-based learning curriculum focuses on understanding the systems of power that have upheld racism and enforced systemic and structural oppression.  It also highlights the resilience, power, and strength of those who have been negatively impacted and historically oppressed.  The PEER curriculum intentionally decentralizes white colonial narratives and operates through an anti-racist lens. 

Identity work is intentionally embedded in the PEER curriculum because understanding and appreciating identity, culture, and diversity encourages thoughtful discourse to restructure power dynamics and disrupt systems.  Serving as a PEER Ambassador advances civic and social responsibility to agitate against racism, bias, oppression, and inequities, and the anti-racist curriculum encourages life-long examination of policies, processes, and practices of the structures environments in which each participant holds space.


PEER’s curriculum promotes social-emotional learning objectives, advances equity, and empowers young people to co-create thriving communities.

PEER is System Transformation

PEER directly aligns with diversity, equity, and inclusion goals, police practices initiatives, and criminal legal system reform efforts. CYFA’s community engagement, intake, evaluation, education/training, and restorative conferencing processes are centered in anti-racism. PEER was created to dismantle structural practices that result in systemic oppression and provide equitable opportunities to go beyond punishment to the heart of personal accountability, victim empowerment, and increased community safety:

PEER focuses on equitable solutions through community-based systems to divert young people from the legal system

PEER is an equitable, safe alternative for those impacted by harm 

PEER shifts cultural and societal reliance on police resources

PEER is committed to racial and social justice, and it speaks authentically to communities impacted by systemic racism

PEER reimagines community policing beyond engagement to systemic reform

PEER engages in robust data collection and analysis not only to inform future programming but also to provide institutional and societal accountability

Please contact CYFA to learn more about PEER, restorative practice and how you can get involved.