‘Traffic Circle’ gives teen drivers the chance to meet victims, have charges dismissed

Trevor T. Trujillo, Oil City

CASPER, Wyo. — Young drivers in Casper have a new restorative justice option to provide volunteer services to deal with traffic offenses.

The Natrona County Restorative Justice program is titled “Traffic Circle” and gives teens a number of choices “to deal with their traffic offense in a way that is meaningful to them and the community.”

The Casper Police Department added on Friday, June 7 that the program officially launched in March.

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“The program participants are able to choose from a series of options in each category such as writing an apology letter, creating a public safety poster, writing an essay, doing yard work to help an elderly or disabled neighbor, journaling, participating in a community group, and attending
courses such as the PARTY class through Wyoming Medical Center, or Alive at 25 by the Department of Transportation,” the police department said.

Teens may be referred to the program by the Casper Municipal Court or other agencies, the release continues.

“The referral to the program is in lieu of prosecution, sometimes referred to as a pocket deferral,” the police department said. “Upon referral, the young drivers must make an intake appointment with the NCRJ coordinator.”

“During this meeting, the driver talks at length with the NCRJ coordinator about their driving incident, the impacts of the incident and steps that can be taken to repair any harm that was caused.”

In come cases, the drivers will meet with victims of their traffic offense.

“During this face-to-face process, the discussion will focus on who has been impacted by the incident and how, what lessons can be learned, and what can be done to repair the harm,” the police department explained.

Program participants will generally have 60 days to complete whatever is required of them from the day a judge refers them to “Traffic Circle.”

“’We want to help facilitate open dialogue between the teenager and the police department in an encouraging environment with the goal of learning from, not punishing, mistakes,’” NCRJ Coordinator Jen Miner said.

Successful completion of the program may result in participants having charges dismissed.

“NCRJ’s purpose is to provide a restorative and balanced approach to crime and conflict that promotes justice and resolution for victims, reparation for the community, along with offender accountability, personal development and re-integration into the community,” the police department went on.

“It is the core belief of NCRJ that conflict and crime within our community has a ripple effect that causes adverse effects to all parties involved, weakens community bond, and negatively impacts public safety.”

“’The Casper Police Department is dedicated to our youth and community,’” Sergeant Jeffrey Bullard said. “‘We believe they are worth investing in, to create a better future for our community.'”

“‘Taking the time to work with these teens, to show them the impact of their driving behaviors, will
correct stereotypes and build better drivers for our community.’”