Next week, November 16-23, 2014 is Restorative Justice Week in Canada. Every year Correction Services Canada’s Restorative Justice Division proclaims this time to focus on what communities across Canada are doing to divert criminal matters from the courts and deal with them locally.
Restorative Justice is a philosophy and an approach that views crime and conflict as harm done to people and relationships. It is a non-adversarial, non-retributive approach to justice that emphasizes healing in victims, accountability of offenders and the involvement of citizens in creating healthier, safer communities.
A year ago the Nelson Police Department’s Community Policing Officer-Sgt. Dino Falcone-explored ways to bring Restorative Justice to Nelson. One of Chief Wayne Holland’s priorities, upon being named head of NPD by the Nelson Police Board, is to establish a well-trained group of volunteers who could accept files from his officers for a Restorative Justice option. Over the past year a volunteer assumed the role as coordinator of this initiative.
Offenders who take responsibility for their actions meet with those who have been directly affected by a criminal act. Each of them with their supporters comes together in a conference. They hear from each other what happened, how the crime has affected each person and together explore ways to repair the harm that has been done. After deliberation with all in the circle, an agreement is reached. The Responsible Person, with the support of a volunteer mentor, works toward fulfilling obligations agreed upon to successfully complete the resolution contract. The Affected Person has had the opportunity to meet the perpetrator of the crime and state what is needed to repair the harm. The Responsible Person has the opportunity to address an initial bad decision or choice and be reintegrated within our community. Where the Criminal Justice system promotes a “win-lose” outcome with charges, pleas and court, the Restorative Justice model promotes “win-win” outcomes as all those involved decide how to repair the harm.
Presently seventeen applicants were accepted for training to become Restorative Justice facilitators and mentors. They have embarked on an intensive training schedule this fall. This group represents many segments of our society with ages ranging from twenty-somethings to seniors, with backgrounds in education, technology, trades and business who bring a passion and commitment to learning and refining appropriate skills.
During Restorative Justice Week this fledgling group will be appearing as a delegation before City Council on Monday to make a presentation on their progress and plans for future development. Also next Friday local volunteers will be staffing an information table at Chahko Mika Mall from 4:30 to 7:30pm where the public can learn more about this initiative.and what it means for our Nelson community.
The NPD Restorative Justice program will receive its files and referrals internally. The theme of Restorative Justice Week 2014 is “Inspiring Innovation”. There are significant challenges ahead as this program develops. However the volunteers’ commitment to do the work with restorative principles always at the forefront will assure the long term success and stability of this new program dedicated to serve as a viable and sound alternative to the Criminal Justice system. .
For further information contact:
Nelson Police Department Restorative Justice Program
606 Stanley Street
Nelson, B.C. V1L 1N4
Phone: 250.354.3919 Fax: 250.354-4179