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Restorative Justice is a community-based alternative to the traditional justice system.  Trained volunteers facilitate Restorative Justice Processes bring together the person(s) harmed, the wrong doer, their families, supporters, and/or the community for a discussion about the incident and how it can be repaired.

The Referral Process

Police officers may choose to refer a young offender to the program as an alternative to filing a criminal charge within the criminal justice system.  This option enables the young offender, if they are accountable for their actions and prepared to repair the harm they have done, to avoid a criminal record and the downward spiral for their future frequently accelerated by entering the criminal justice system. 

It is not an option for everyone

It is an option if:

  • All parties are voluntary participants.
  • Both the person harmed and person responsible for the harm are willing to participate in a face-to-face meeting.  If in some cases face to face meetings are not possible, video conferencing or written correspondence, or use of a surrogate person(s) harmed (someone who has experienced a similar crime or harmful incident) might be considered if most appropriate.
  • The person who has done the harm accepts responsibility, or at least does not deny responsibility for the harm.
  • All parties consider it safe to be involved.

When a referral is received by the program

  • A confidential case file is initiated.
  • The program coordinator reviews the referral and collects additional information as required to determine appropriateness of referral for the Restorative Justice process. This may involve phone calls to the referring individual, the police involved in the case, and other relevant involved parties.
  • If the case is deemed appropriate, the coordinator assigns both a primary and support facilitator to the case
  • The “primary” facilitator will contact both the person(s) harmed and the wrong doer and complete pre-case conference interviews.
  • If following the pre-conference interviews, it is agreed by all parties that they would like to proceed with the restorative conference, a time and location is arranged and additional participants as needed are invited to attend.

What to expect

If you are person who was harmed

  • A chance to tell your story
  • Be certain the wrong doer understands the impact of the harm
  • Find answers to your questions
  • Hold the wrong doer accountable
  • If possible, identify what can be done to repair the harm.

If you are the person who caused the harm

  • A chance to tell your story
  • Accept responsibility for and acknowledge the harm caused
  • Hear how your actions affected others
  • Show that your actions do not make up all of who you are
  • Participate in determining how to repair the harm.
  • An opportunity to avoid getting a criminal record

Benefit of Community participation

Members of the community who participate in the RJ program or in RJ conferences will:

  • Gain a better understanding of the root causes of crime
  • Engage in a process to express and reduce fears
  • Contribute to an understanding of the wider impacts of crime
  • Contribute to helping the accountable youth to find ways to repair the harm done to the individual and the community
  • Support the building of a safe and connected community.

The role of the support persons/or community members depends upon the process that will be used and the circumstances of the incident.  It may be as an active participant or as an observer. 

It is important during this meeting that the support person or community member understands and accepts the principles of the Restorative Justice process and is open to sharing suggestions and options to repair the harm. 

The Restorative Conference

The focus of the Restorative Conference is to understand the impact of the offence, provide opportunity for both person(s) harmed and wrong doer to tell their story, identify the root cause of the offence if possible and collaborate to identify actions that would restore the harm or the impact of the harm. Facilitators guide participants through a very structured dialogue regarding the harm, thoughts and feelings about the impact of the harm, and what needs to be done to effectively repair the harm.  The outcome is an agreement arrived at by consensus

The Contract

Once collaborative restorative solutions are agreed to, a contract is signed by the wrong doer and the person who was harmed. The wrong doer is agreeing to complete the requirements of the restorative action plan contract within a specified time frame. This contract is legally binding for Restorative Justice Processes and is arrived at through consensus of all the Restorative Process participants/stakeholders.  It consists of the actions to be taken to meaningfully repair the impact of the harm resulting from the wrongdoing.

If the wrong doer fails to comply with agreed action plan within the agreed upon timelines, the file is returned to police for formal processing within the criminal justice system.

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