- Are “diversion programs” and “community justice programs” different from “restorative justice programs”?
- What kinds of cases can be referred to restorative justice?
- Are restorative justice conferences confidential?
- Where do the program’s volunteers come from?
- Do participants in RJ get any remuneration?
- Do volunteers require a criminal record check?
- What roles do volunteers play in a typical case?
- How many volunteer hours will I expect to provide?
- How long might a typical case last?
- Are the RCMP involved after the case is referred to RJ?
- Where do RJ meetings take place?
- What is a “conference agreement”?
- What kinds of things are offenders asked do?
- What happens to offenders after the successful completion of a case?
- What happens if an offender does not complete the undertakings of a community justice agreement?
No. These are all names for the same programs. As the intention of the process we use is to be restorative rather than punitive, the term restorative justice replaced the others.
The RCMP refer “appropriate criminal offences.” Referrals can involve theft, possession of stolen property, mischief, and unlawful use of a credit card, as long as the amount of money involved is under $5,000. Other offences that might be referred are false pretences, uttering threats, causing a disturbance, shoplifting, vandalism, fraud, forgery, taking an auto without the owner’s consent, possession of a small quantity of illegal drugs, and a minor case of assault.
Yes. Everyone involved in an RJ conference must sign a contract promising to keep whatever happens in the conference confidential. This is consistent with the idea that the process is intended to restore offenders as contributing and valuable members of the community and to restore the comfort level of victims, both with offenders and with the community in general.
Our volunteers come from all walks of life. Some have prior training related to restorative justice, but most do not. They range in age from men and women in their twenties to senior citizens. What they have in common is their belief in the ability of people to restore the harm that has occurred by working together to find solutions and in the importance of the process to the health of the community.
No. Everyone involved in RJ is a volunteer. They are reimbursed for any training or educational events they attend, but they are not paid for the time they donate to the program.
Yes. This is easily done by filling out a form and submitting it to our local RCMP detachment office. The check is usually completed in about a week.
We assign two people to act as co-facilitators for each case. Another individual acts as a mentor for each offender involved in a case.
Each case is different, but most generally involve three meetings—one with the victim, a second with the offender, and the restorative justice conference itself. Facilitators have responsibility for arranging the meetings and the conference, which involves ensuring that everyone can come on a specific date, finding a venue, arranging for any necessary seating, paperwork and refreshments, and acting as chairperson. Mentors follow up on conference agreements, working with the offenders to whom they are assigned to ensure that the undertakings contained in the agreements are complied with.
Again, this varies from case to case. If those involved in a case can be readily reached and are available to attend meetings immediately, a case might be settled within a couple of weeks. More often, a case and the completion of agreement undertakings will take longer, perhaps an average of three months.
We try to involve the referring RCMP officer in the conference. The police bring an important viewpoint to the table and can often reassure victims and help offenders understand the nuances of what has happened. The police are not usually involved after the conference. Once the conference agreement has been satisfactorily completed, we send a summary report to the RCMP.
There is no one place for meetings. Initial interviews with victims and offenders most often take place in the individuals’ homes. Conferences are usually held in the Community Services building’s board room.
A restorative justice conference brings a victim and an offender together to review the harm that was done and to come to an agreement that will repair, as much as possible, the harm or loss that has taken place. Everyone at the conference signs this agreement, which outlines what the offender will do to “make it right.”
In each case, specific undertakings are worked out between the victim and the offender. These may include apologies to those harmed, letters to the editor of the local newspaper apologizing to the community for the harm caused, reimbursement to those affected for the value of goods stolen or for repairs to damaged property, or a designated number of work hours to benefit community agencies such as the food bank, service organizations like the Lions Club, or the fire hall.
When an RJ case is successfully concluded, a report stating this is sent to the RCMP and the offender(s) receives no criminal record.
When an offender fails to complete the undertakings of a conference agreement, the case is referred back to the police who may take additional action. At the very least, the individual’s file is noted as incomplete and this may affect how the police deal with any subsequent infraction.