Restorative Justice is a process that enables the community in determining the outcome of conflict which directly affects the community. Members in our organization have been working with the RCMP and community to provide alternatives to court processes, court diversions, for more than 18 years.
The growth in the use of Restorative Justice as a court diversion program means that the scope of referrals has also increased. At one time, referrals were limited to what was termed Category 3 offenses: Theft under $5000.00, Mischief under $5000.00 and Non power-based Assault. The financial limit of $5000.00 still remains and the same holds true for non power-based assault, but the range complexity has growth to match the developing skills of CDRJS facilitators.
• Restorative Justice is a process of repair. Unlike referrals to court, the offender must take responsibility for the offense.
• In connection with offenders’ willingness to accept responsibility, they must be willing to repair the harm done to the victim and to the community.• The third condition is the willingness of the victim to be involved in the process. Restorative Justice provides the victim with the opportunity to explain to the offender the negative impact that the offender’s actions have had.
CDRJS continues to work with the community to provide support for other programs and ministries. CDRJS has:
· Negotiated a MOU with School District 5 (Southeast Kootenay);
· Negotiated a MOU with the Ktunaxa Nation to provide support and training as they work toward an Aboriginal Court System;
· Begun work with the Land Code Office of A’qum to provide support and training for restorative alternative to bylaw violations;
· Merged with EKOHDE (East Kootenay in Support for Human Dignity and Equality) and the related Humanity Network to provide support for public awareness for Human Rights issues;
· Begun work on revising the protocols for the local support structures for the OARH Network (Organization Against Race and Hatred) and the Incident Response Team.
· Continues to provide restorative justice for Cranbrook, Kimberley and the Elk Valley;
· Continues to provide restorative justice facilitator training for this region.
Restorative Justice is a trauma-informed practice and the work of CDRJS focuses on processes which honour the human dignity and equality of all particiants. Facilitators are trained to look beyond the simple facts of a file and work toward restoring relationships, restoring respect for each participant and ensuring that the process is not stigmatizing – There Are No Bad Dogs, just poor choices at times.
The eventual outcome of a forum is to return both the offender and the victim to good standing within their relative communities of support. A contract or agreement is formed by consensus of those participating in the forum. The agreement identifies the steps that individuals will take toward repairing their relationships. For the offender, there are elements of an apology, financial restitution if financial harm was done and some element of contribution to the community. There is discussion about the need to rebuild trust and to be seen as trustworthy. The facilitators are trained to help participants consider the “Three R’s” of restitution:
Realistic: Can what you are asking to be done, actually be done considering other family, work, education or physical demands and limitations?
Restorative: Does this activity or condition actually repair the harm that was done?
Relative: How does this relate to the damage that was done? We were unfortunately raised in a punishment system to some degree. Often when considering what needs to be done, elements of punishment are brought forward. The suggestion, “The Offender should pick up garbage along the highway for a week”, is acceptable only if the offender was responsible for the garbage being there in the first place.
The file is referred to one of the facilitators for mentoring. The mentor connects once a week until the conditions of the contract are met. On conclusion, the file is referred back to the program coordinator for preparation of final notices to offender, victim and referring organization.
A typical file takes 6 weeks to conclude from intake to final notices. Contracts that contain monetary reparation or significant community service may take a longer period to complete.
What are the positive impacts for the community?
1. The process is focused on identifying and addressing the harm of crime while respecting dignity and equality. It allows the victim to be directly involved in the outcome and provide the offender with the impact of their inappropriate actions.
2. There is a lower recidivism rate for restorative justice approaches as compared with formal court processes. Simply put, restorative justice helps offender learn from their inappropriate actions and reduces the likelihood of similar behavior in the future.
3. The process reduces stigmatization of the offender and empowers the victim.
4. The program is cost effective. An offense that is carried forward through the formal court process places an additional burden on the financial resources of the community.
5. The process from intake to completion is much faster than the traditional court process – months as compared to years.
6. The diversion from a formal court process has the potential of saving a one-time offender from the life-limiting, potential-limiting consequence of a criminal record. Offenders referred from the RCMP, who successfully complete all conditions of their restorative justice agreement, will have a police file for the retention period for that offense. The purge date for Theft is 5 years, Mischief is 5 years and Assault is 8 yrs. A criminal record is a life record. Having a Police File may not have any impact on future employment or access to other countries provided that additional offenses are not committed.
What are the positive financial outcomes from supporting CDRJS?
1. During the 2017 year, 53 files were referred from RCMP to CDRJS. 50 of these files were successfully completed or a potential savings of roughly $3, 500.00 per file and a savings to the communities of about $175, 000.
2. As mentioned earlier, depending on the complexity of the file, it takes 6 to 8 weeks to work through the file from submission to completion. The use of Restorative Justice for offenders who are willing to accept their responsibility and address the harm they have created, reduces the wait-time and load on the formal court system.
Benefits of Restorative Justice
3. CDRJS has two trained trainers. The CJF Facilitator workshops are offered at no cost to the community. Those who are trained may not want to continue further and facilitate files. They are, however, better prepared through their training to resolve conflict in the workplace, community and at home.