Restorative Justice Week 2014 in Nelson

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:
Gerry Sobie
Program Coordinator
Nelson Police Department Restorative Justice Program
606 Stanley Street
Nelson, B.C. V1L 1N4
Phone: 250.354.3919 Fax: 250.354-4179
Cell: 250.777.3979

Nelson Police Department’s Restorative Justice Program

Nelson Police Restorative Justice Program

Nelson Police Department’s Restorative Justice Program garnering great volunteer support.

Training for program that aims for a more compassionate community by putting perpetrators and victims face-to-face starts in September.

Nelson —The Nelson Police Department is making great headway in its search for volunteers for its innovative Restorative Justice Program — and with training slated to begin soon, the NPD is making an urgent last call for all who may still be interested in signing up.

The program places would-be law breakers face-to-face with those they’ve affected by their actions, and together, perpetrators and victims explore ways to repair the harm that’s been done.

“This program will do far more to make a first-time offender recognize that they have done harm to others, as well as to themselves, than the criminal justice system could ever hope to accomplish,” says NPD Chief Wayne Holland. “The personal interaction between the perpetrators — who often are former victims themselves — and the citizens who have been wronged can result in a young person being motivated to change the direction of his or her life, for their benefit as well as that of their community.”
Since the first call for volunteers went out this spring, 10 locals have been interviewed in preparation for the program’s intensive training course, which will run from September through December.

“I’ve been very impressed with applicants’ backgrounds and varied experiences,” says Restorative Justice Program Coordinator Gerry Sobie, who is leading the effort along with NPD Sergeant Dino Falcone. “I hear the commitment and passion in their voices,” Sobie adds.

Sobie says his candidates come from a broad background of professions including computational sciences, environmental management, city administration, social work, automotive technician, retired educators, food services and retail.

One of the volunteer applicants is retired school principal and 35-year Nelson resident Wayne Prentice, who says the program will have great benefits for the city.
“It’s a process through which relationships are restored,” says Prentice, a longtime local elementary school principal up until his retirement in 2007. “If a crime has been committed, both the victim and perpetrator need restoring so both can be functional and productive again in our community. The responsible party must understand and accept responsibility for her/his actions.”

Sobie says Restorative Justice will help make Nelson a healthier, more compassionate community than it already is.

Restorative Justice training will run on Saturdays and weekday evenings starting in September. The program is looking for another 10 volunteers.

If you’re interested in learning more, contact Gerry Sobie at NPD phone 250-354-3919 or Volunteer application forms are at the front desk of the Nelson Police Department or online on the NPD website.

Media Contact:
Gerry Sobie, RJ Program Coordinator
c. 250-777-3979 p. 250-354-3919

Sgt. Dino Falcone
p. 250-354-3919

Nelson Police Department rolls out innovative Restorative Justice Program

Restorative Justice Falcone & Sobie

‘Second chance’ approach focuses on people and relationships hurt by crime

Nelson — What kind of community do we want to live in? One where bad choices always are punished? Or one where there are second chances? The Nelson Police Department is opting for the latter. How? With the introduction of Restorative Justice as an option to criminal charges when a crime has been committed. In the face of crime and conflict, Restorative Justice is a philosophy and approach that views crime and conflict principally as harm done to people and relationships. The program is looking for volunteers, and is being led by NPD Sergeant Dino Falcone and coordinated by Restorative Justice Program Coordinator Gerry Sobie, who helped establish and run the Cranbrook RCMP Restorative Justice Program, from 2005 to 2009.

1. How does the Restorative Justice program work, what does it aim to do, where else is it in use?
It is difficult to provide a brief answer. First of all, a definition of Restorative Justice could be, “a process to involve, to the extent possible, those who have a stake in a specific offense and to collectively identify and address harms, needs, and obligations, in order to heal and put things as right as possible.” Translated in action, the Nelson Police Department Restorative Justice program would receive a file from an arresting officer. An individual has been charged with a criminal offense and accepts responsibility for his/her actions and is prepared to meet with the victim to begin to repair the harm resulting from the offense. The victim is invited to participate. All those who voluntarily meet regarding this matter are prepared for the encounter. There may be supporters for the offender and victim as well as members of the community who have been affected by the incident. The offender and victim agree on ways to begin repairing the harm done. Once the offender completes her/his agreement, the matter is resolved and does not proceed to the Criminal Justice system. The offender has been given the opportunity to resolve this offense in an alternate manner that does not affect one’s criminal record.

This is a brief overview of how our process would work. Restorative Justice Programs have been implemented in many BC communities, in Canada and throughout the world. Actually, there are elements of Restorative Justice that originated with circle meetings Aboriginals used and developed over time. BC enjoys a reputation for having many different Restorative Justice Programs. RCMP “E” Division has assigned staff to train volunteers in communities that wish to establish programs. We have a unique opportunity to develop a “made in Nelson” Restorative Justice Program to address and meet our community’s needs.

2. How do people get involved, how can the public help?
For our program to function, we will require volunteers to take intensive training to learn how to meet with offenders and victims, prepare them for coming together, conducting the meetings, and mentor offenders to successfully complete their agreements. We’ve been assured by Sgt. Falcone that appropriate files will be diverted to Restorative Justice once we have volunteers to handle them.

Without volunteers, the program will not function. We are appealing to our community of Nelson for volunteers who may be interested to learn more. Expectations would be prospective volunteers complete an application, meet for an interview, submit to a Criminal Record check, and be prepared to commit up to 10 hours a month to volunteering and training. This program can contribute to the health and well-being of our city and community.

We have applications for volunteers available on the Nelson Police Department website ( or at the front desk of the Station at 606 Stanley Street. Anyone interested is asked to complete an application and submit to Nelson Police Department Restorative Justice Program either by mail or dropped off.

3. Program Coordinator Gerry Sobie’s experience: Cranbrook’s successful Restorative Justice Program
I took training in facilitating offender-victim meetings in 2004 while living in Cranbrook. I was the volunteer coordinator for developing the Cranbrook & District Restorative Justice Society. I worked out of the RCMP Detachment. In 2007 I was certified to conduct Community Justice Forum training under the auspices of RCMP “E” Division. We had up to 25 trained volunteers in Cranbrook who handled up to 45 files a year.

4. What’s the new RJ program’s relationship with the existing Kootenay RJ program?
The Kootenay Restorative Justice Society (KRJS) was formed 12 years ago and provides restorative justice and preventative bullying programs to the Slocan Valley, Salmo, Nelson and surrounding areas. They receive their referrals from RCMP as well as schools and community members. As we develop our Nelson Restorative Justice (NRJ) program, we would like to collaborate with KRJS by sharing resources and training. However, the source of Nelson referrals will be our local Police Department.

5. Quotes on the Restorative Justice Programs success:
“The Nelson Police Board is extremely pleased with the implementation of our own Restorative Justice program here in Nelson. A citizen deserves an opportunity to make amends to society and to their victims. This program, which has my support, has been previously successful in removing any barriers that may exist between a first-time offender, their victims and our law enforcement personnel. ” Mayor John Dooley, Chair – Nelson Police Board

“Restorative Justice is a compassionate, cost-effective and time-tested method of recognizing the harm done to a victim. It also encourages a first-time offender to return to a life-style that respects the rights of others and provides them with the opportunity to be law-abiding and productive members of the community. Mr. Sobie has the full support of the men and women of the Nelson Police Department.” Chief Constable Wayne Holland – Nelson Police Department

“As the Department’s Community Policing Officer, I support any initiative that allows a victim and an offender, by means of a trained community facilitator, to resolve their differences and restore peaceful relations, without the necessity to rely on a costly and time consuming criminal justice and/or court system. I look forward to working with Gerry Sobie and our volunteers to make our goal of having our own Restorative Justice capacity here in Nelson a reality.” Sergeant Dino Falcone – Community Policing Officer – Nelson Police Department

Media contact:
Sergeant Dino Falcone
P. 250-354-3919
Gerry Sobie
P. 250-354-3919
C. 250-777-3979

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