A group of volunteers in the Nelson Police Department’s restorative justice program. Photo: Genevieve Sittig

Nelson’s Restorative Justice program offers volunteer training

50 hours of training takes place October through December

The Nelson Police Department will be offering restorative justice volunteer training from October through December.

Restorative justice is a response to crime that focuses on restoring the losses suffered by victims, inviting offender responsibility, and building peaceful communities. It’s an alternative to the criminal justice system for relatively minor crimes.

The needs and concerns of victims of crime are at the heart of restorative justice. The needs of offenders and discovering the root causes of their offences are also a priority. The goal is to provide safe and fair processes for all participants, and to support healing for victims.

In a restorative justice process, the victim, offender and a volunteer facilitator meet to share their experience of the crime and to collaboratively decide if and how the harm (emotional, physical, and/or financial) can be repaired. Facilitators work to ensure the victim and offender are well prepared before coming face-to-face with one another. The result can be an empowering and cathartic experience. Here is some feedback received through anonymous evaluation forms:

“We felt the humanness of everyone else — something that can be lacking in the judicial system.”

“I have only huge gratitude that this program exists and was offered to me. I had no idea about it. It is life changing to participate in this program that supports functional change. It gives me a renewed and healthy relationship with myself, modelled by the restorative justice staff and volunteers.”

Community members are sometimes invited to play supportive roles in conferences. Here is what one community member had to say about their experience as a support person: “It was uplifting to be part of a process that productively allows the [responsible person] to take responsibility in a non-judgmental, non-punitive context. I felt honoured to be a part of the process.”

If a resolution agreement is created, the final part in the process is to support offenders to carry out their commitments. Agreements can involve requests for the responsible person to work to improve their quality of life to ensure that they desist from the offending behavior (e.g. counselling or seeking financial supports) or a letter of apology or article of reflection in the local newspaper.

Restorative justice receives referrals from police, corrections, schools and individuals. Some examples of the types of crime the program manages are mischief, theft, break and enter, impaired driving and assault.

Volunteers receive an initial 50-hour training and quarterly advanced training sessions, and meet monthly to stay current with program developments and to work on skills.

The program, launched in 2014, is located in the police department and has an advisory board of five experienced facilitators and one Nelson Police Department liaison who work closely with the program coordinator to increase capacity, and address best practices.

The training commences on Oct. 13 and runs until Dec. 1 on selected Saturdays and Tuesday evenings. For more information and applications go to nelsonpolice.ca and click on the Restorative Justice tab, or email rj@nelsonpolice.ca, or call 250-505-5654. Applications can also be picked up at Nelson Police Department.

The 2018 fall training of new volunteers is funded by the Columbia Basin Trust.

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