A Conversation with Restorative Jeff Co’s Jenna Gottlieb

CCRJP: How did Restorative Jeff Co get started?
Jenna: There has been a lot of desire and work to get restorative justice work in Jefferson County over the last 15 years or so. I feel like our current success rests on the work of others, namely Liz Porter-Merrill, who educated and mobilized community stakeholders. The stakeholder group decided they would apply for a grant to hire someone to develop what has become Restorative Jeff Co. I was hired and started working a year ago and already had partners who were interested in starting the work. As relationships are the foundation of restorative justice, they are also the foundation of Restorative Jeff Co. We started by building those relationships and continue to strengthen them and work toward more connections within the county.

Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault

CCRJP: What partnerships have been made so far?

We are so proud about the stakeholders in our community who support restorative justice. Liz Porter-Merrill and Chris Brown-Haugen worked for two years prior to when I started to mobilize and educate law enforcement, parole and probation, diversion, services for people who have been harmed, diversion, Jeff Co schools, mental health providers and other Jeff Co stakeholders on restorative justice. Stakeholder meetings are held monthly to update our community on our work, find places to collaborate, and continue education around restorative practices. We currently are partnered with the Golden Police Department to divert cases prior to a ticket to a restorative community group process. We are hoping to bring on 3 other agencies to divert cases in 2024.

PorchLight Family Justice Center has been generous to donate space for us to host our staff and meetings there. This allows for us to develop and deepen community relationships with community service providers.

Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault

CCRJP: What has it been like to be the first employee for a brand-new RJ program?
Jenna: It’s unique and challenging and fun. There’s a level of freedom to develop a new organization intentionally with your community infused with the values of restorative justice. Although I’m the sole employee of Restorative Jeff Co, I have people who are supporting me in doing the work. It has been important for me to focus on developing relationships within Jeff Co and with folks doing RJ around the state. The support of others around me has allowed me to avoid reinventing the wheel. There’s so much room to dream and envision what we could do in the future to support our community in restorative practices.

Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault

CCRJP: What does Restorative Jeff Co need from the CCRJP community?
Jenna: We want to collaborate and work together! Mutual aid and support across our organizations and programs can only support in moving the dial on our shared restorative justice goals. I’d like to express appreciation for those organizations that have already shared resources and training with us and hope Restorative Jeff Co can offer that to others as well.

CCRJP: Anything else you want to say about Restorative Jeff Co?
Jenna: We are working to become a community based agency. Beyond diverting cases away from the criminal legal system, we seek to support communities to address harm outside of the system. We hope to train facilitators within the community and support them in navigating restorative processes and infusing relationships with restorative practices. Our goal is to build capacity within organizations and communities to become more restorative in their work as we aim to do so for ourselves as well within Restorative Jeff Co.

Check Out More Great Articles