Arrowsmith Community Justice Society
"Our Vision is a Community in Harmony"
Address: 727 West Island Highway
Parksville, BC, V9P 1B9
Email: director @ acjs.ca (no spaces)
Restorative Justice is a new framework for the criminal justice system that is rapidly gaining acceptance and support throughout British Columbia and Canada as it has done in countries world-wide. It is a philosophical framework which has been proposed as an alternative to the current way of thinking about crime and criminal justice. Restorative justice emphasizes the ways in which crime harms relationships in the context of community. Crime is viewed as a violation of the victim and community, not as a violation of the state.
The restorative justice model makes the offender accountable to the victim and the community. Accountability for offenders is defined in terms of taking responsibility for actions and taking action to repair the harm caused to the victim and the community. It provides for immediate, active participation by the victim, the offender and the community in the process of repairing the fabric of community peace. As the parties to the incident meet to tell the story of the offence from their perspective, emotion is expressed and valued and understanding is developed. This foundation provides the meeting with the potential to conclude with an agreement which is particular to the dispute, as well as, achievable by the parties. The model vales the parties voluntary and direct participation in this process, whose goal is to create a valid agreement which will resolve the injustice. A valid agreement must ensure that the debt is feasibly paid and the harm done is repaired. Following the completion of the restitution, the restorative justice concept promotes the reintegration of both the victim and the offender into the community as a whole and contributing member.
Community and personal safety and peace are at the core of the restorative justice philosophy. It promotes community ownership through local involvement; developing and implementing justice programs which will reflect community values, as well as transforming community perception, relationships and structures. Restorative justice is a framework through which we can all share our community peacemaking responsibilities.
The choice is ours!!
PRINCIPLES OF RESTORATIVE JUSTICE
Crime is first of all a harm done to victims. The State (Regina) is an abstraction, and as such is not a victim of crime. It is an instrument of the community for the purposes of providing needed resources.
The duties of the State are to provide resources and processes that effectively address the harms done to victims, the re-integration of offenders into the community and ensure that the broader community harms and needs are adequately dealt with in a manner that nurtures a safe, healthy society and a restored community.
A fundamental component of crime is that it is an act of disrespect toward another. Restorative justice holds that effective responses to crime must be responses that address the issue of respect for the humanity of both the victim and the offender.
Individuals who create harm for others need to be accountable and responsible directly to those harmed in ways that meaningfully address the harms done. The offender's responsibility is to make right the wrong to the greatest degree possible. This includes attending to needs created by the offence, and attending to personal needs which led to the offence.
It is in the best interest of the community, the victim and the offender for justice responses to focus on healing and (re)integration of victim and offender into the community. Leave one or more of the parties to a crime out and restorative justice is negated. Victims must be respected and their needs fully met. Offenders must be respected but their criminal act(s) condemned.
Restorative justice also recognizes that "offender" and "victim" labels are temporary and interchangeable over time within any community.
Restorative justice addresses crime at the earliest point possible with the maximum amount of voluntary cooperation and the minimum amount of coercion. Processes that delay addressing the crime create further harm and victimization for all involved in the process.
Processes that encourage collaboration and voluntary participation create potential for transformation and healing. Adversarial, coercive processes tend to increase or multiply harms and to be counterproductive to transformation and healing.
When offenders and/or victims are unable or unwilling to respond to crime in a collaborative way, the State on behalf of the community must use alternate processes, including separation of the offender from the community and deprivation of freedom of movement. All parties must still be treated with fundamental respect. The ultimate goals must be retained: responsibility and accountability for the offender in making right the harm done, and encouraging healing and health for all involved to the end that the commonly is peopled by healthy and whole persons.