You may have heard the term Restorative Justice before. The central idea is that crime and conflict are a problem that affects the entire community, and the community needs to have a say in how to repair the harm that has been caused.
Here in Burlington, that often means having the person who committed the offense, the victims if they want to participate, and trained community volunteers sit down and talk. Together, the group creates a binding contract which addresses the needs of the victim and the community and includes ways to avoid future problems, with everyone having an equal say in what goes into the final agreement. Follow up meetings are scheduled to ensure the contract is successfully completed.
Even when victims or affected parties chose not to directly participate, they can ask to be kept informed by a “Victim Liaison” whose job it is to represent the victims’ concerns at the meetings.
Cases are referred to the Restorative Justice Panels in several ways – sometimes directly by police officers on the scene if it is a first time or relatively minor offense. For many others, the criminal justice system makes successfully completing a reparative panel contact a part of their criminal sentence. For still others, their school or others in the community might refer them.
To learn more about this program, and how you might participate as a victim, or community volunteer, contact Jocelyn Juaire at the Burlington Community Justice Center.