Restorative justice programs enable the victim, the offender and affected members of the community to be directly involved in responding to crime or wrongdoing. Justice Center staff facilitate a variety of programs and processes that aim at holding offenders accountable for their actions, repairing the harm done to victims and the community, and restoring the offender to a productive role in the community.
Referrals to the Justice Center’s restorative justice programs may be made by club and activity leaders, schools, law-enforcement agencies, the Vermont state police, VT state attorney’s, probation and parole, or county courts.
Here is what one responsible party had to say after going through a Restorative Justice Panel: “The people [on the panels] saw me as a person, although I committed a crime, and not as a criminal. Everyone was very kind and understanding and gave me a good feeling that I’m not a bad person, I just made a bad decision.”
Restorative justice processes used at the Community Restorative Justice Center includes the following:
- Restorative Justice Panels: Each Restorative Panel is comprised of trained community volunteers who meet with the victim(s) and offender to help the offender understand the impact of the crime or wrongdoing on both the victim(s) and the community. The group then comes to an agreement for repairing the harm done, holding the offender accountable for his or her actions, and helping the offender learn ways to avoid re-offending
- Group Conferences: In a group conference a trained facilitator guides a discussion among victim(s), offender(s), and others who have been impacted by the crime or wrongdoing. The group discusses the impact of the offense, educating the offender about how they and their community were affected by the person’s actions. The group then agrees on how the offender will be held accountable for his or her actions, how the harm done will be repaired, and how the offender will learn not to re-offend.
- Victim/Offender Mediation: When the crime or wrong-doing stems from a pre-existing dispute between the victim and the offender, the best way to address the matter may be to mediate the underlying dispute so that the individuals can resolve their differences and agree between them how any harm done should be resolved. In these cases a trained mediator meets with the parties to the dispute to arrive at a mediation agreement.
Restorative Program Model:
Which Situations Benefit from Restorative Methods?
- Disputes with your neighbors, such as noise, vandalism, animal complaints, parking, etc.
- Landlord-tenant disputes
- School discipline and truancy matters
- Problems related to business or workplace conflicts
- Pre-charge and post-adjudicated criminal offense
How Does the Community Benefit?
- Everyone has a chance to speak and be heard.
- Victims needs are addressed. Everyone can “win.”
- Creative solutions go beyond compromise.
- The people, not a judge, set the terms of the agreement.
- Offenders are held responsible.
- Citizens are involved.
- Process preserves relationships between people.
- All services are free of charge.