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LETTER: Restorative justice as a means to effect constructive change

Dear Editor,

November 15 to 22 is Restorative Justice Week.

Restorative Justice is justice that attempts to repair the damage done when a crime is committed.

Often when we think of justice, it is retributive justice, justice that demands that a penalty be paid for harm that is done. Retributive justice is based on the concept of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. It involves punishment and retribution.

Restorative Justice, in contrast, works with the victims of crime and the offenders to find a way for all who are involved to come to terms with what has happened and to try to make things right again.

For over ten years, Castlegar has had a restorative justice program in place. Run by volunteers, this program holds forums where youth and other first offenders meet with those they have harmed to confront the damage that has been done and to come to an agreement on how it can be addressed.

The advantages of this program are many.

For the victims, it gives them an opportunity to express to those who have hurt them what they have experienced. And it allows them to have a say in what is done.

For the offender, it allows them to stay out of the criminal justice system, although this is not a way to get off lightly. It is not easy to be confronted by the results of your actions and the effect they have had on others. It requires admitting to your offence and being willing to do whatever is required to make up for it.

For the community, the restorative justice program cuts down on expensive court costs and on rates of crime. The incidence of re-offending after having been through the program is very low, much lower than for those who are referred to the criminal system.

As Restorative Justice Week approaches, thanks goes to Inga Lamont, who has co-ordinated this program for the last 10 years, to the RCMP who have supported it, and to the trained facilitators who have made it possible.

For more information on this program, phone 250-365-4922 or 250-365-7500.

Happy Restorative Justice Week!

Ann Pollock
Castlegar and District Community Justice Forum