What is Restorative Justice?
Restorative Justice is one way to respond to a criminal act, based on a philosophy that views crime as a violation of relationships. It puts the emphasis on the harm caused to both individuals and communities by recognizing that crime is both a violation of the relationships between specific people and an offence against everyone – the community.
Restorative Justice provides a constructive and meaningful response to crime and conflict, and encourages opportunities for accountability, understanding, problem solving and healing.
The Restorative Justice process requires wrongdoers to recognize the harm they have caused, to accept responsibility for their actions and to be actively involved in improving the situation. Individuals that meet the criteria for the program are referred by the arresting officer.
What circumstances qualify?
Before a person who caused harm (offender) can be considered for Restorative Justice, the following conditions must be met:
- The person who caused harm (offender) must take responsibility for the actions and participate in the program voluntarily
- The facilitator must feel that the case is suitable for the program
- The person harmed (victim) involvement is essential to the process
- Criminal cases are referred to the program by the RCMP
What is the Restorative Justice process?
The Restorative Justice program assigns trained volunteer facilitators to each file. These facilitators contact all parties involved for a pre-conference interview where the process is reviewed in detail.
The facilitators then arrange for a conference to be held where the parties meet face to face. Both the person who caused the harm, and the person harmed may have supporters, which can include family, friends, and members of the community.
The facilitators moderate the conference and maintain a record of events. At the conclusion of the conference, with input from all participants, an agreement is created and signed outlining the responsibilities to be fulfilled by the person who caused harm (offender). The program manager maintains contact with the individuals throughout the duration of the agreement to ensure compliance.
An agreement may include:
- Verbal and/or written apology
- Services to the community – wolunteering with, or assisting in, community events or organizations
- Services to the family
- Possible financial compensation
- Essay or research assignment
- Projects unique to the skill sets of the individuals involved
A Restorative Justice Conference may take the form of a Community Justice Forum, where all participants are available, or a Community Accountability Panel, where volunteers sitting in as Panel Members take the place of the person harmed (victim).
Why is Restorative Justice successful?
The process provides an opportunity for offenders to accept responsibility for their actions and to understand the impact of their behaviour on others.
This realization often brings about deep feelings of remorse and empathy. Consequently, when offered the chance, many offenders are willing to do whatever they can to repair the harm they have caused.
Moreover, when victims are able to express how they have been affected by what has happened and then see and hear genuine expressions of remorse, they are often quick to accept and to forgive. This enables everyone to return to the community with a sense of closure and optimism for the future.
What are the Benefits of Restorative Justice?
The program offers positive benefits to the community, including:
- Increases understanding and empathy
- Enhances sense of responsibility to one another amongst citizens
- Helps resolve issues in a fair manner without residual bitterness
- Promotes trust and self-worth
- Creates a safe environment for the exploration and resolution of incidents
- Invites full participation and collaboration
- Provides an opportunity to resolve issues with a goal of preventing further harms
- Outcome is chosen by those most directly affected
- Often costs less and happens more quickly than the court system
Persons harmed, or victims of crime and conflict have an opportunity to:
- Discuss how an incident has impacted them
- Discover more information about, and gain a greater understanding of the incident
- Obtain resolution and closure
Persons who caused harm, or offenders, have an opportunity to:
- Take responsibility for their actions and repair the harm with the support of the community
- Participate in developing a fair and reasonable agreement
- Avoid a court process and criminal record
Who are the Restorative Justice Facilitators?
All facilitators in the program are volunteers and do not receive any remuneration for their time. Each facilitator is required to have taken training under the guidance of the Restorative Justice Program Manager and participate in training seminars annually. Facilitators must obtain and maintain an RCMP Criminal Records Check.
If you have an interest in learning more about the program, or the requirements in training and commitment to qualify as a volunteer facilitator, please contact the Program Manager at 250-490-2372.