If you told Sara Belgoyen*, executive director of the Illinois Balanced and Restorative Justice Project, that our current criminal justice system is a successful and effective response to crime, her reaction might surprise you.

She would tell you that the United States has the highest amount of prisoners in the world, over 600,000 more inmates than the second-place holder, even though our current crime rate does not justify our large prison population.

The majority of offenders will likely end up back in their cells because of the lack of reintegration programs employed in prisons.

In Illinois, Belgoyen hopes to use restorative justice practices to reduce the number of prisoners in her state, and to help previous offenders reintegrate back into society successfully. This alternative approach to justice offers something that our current system does not — it puts the needs of everyone affected by a crime at the forefront.

*Out of respect to Sara, we withheld specific information about her arrests as a teenager.