Rhineland Area Justice Committee
Rehabilitation Through Reconciliation
What is Restorative Justice?
Restorative justice is a philosophical approach to responding to crime. Restorative justice puts the emphasis on the wrong done to an individual, as well as on the wrong done to the community, and recognizes that crime is a violation of the relationship between specific people and an offence against everyone - the community. Crime is not limited to a victim and offender. Family members, friends, colleagues - all are impacted by the offending behaviour.
Restorative justice programs include the voluntary participation of the victim of the crime, the offender, and ideally, members of the community in discussions which aim to restore the relationship, fix the damage that has been done and prevent further crimes from occurring. Restorative justice is being used with a wide range of offences, from less serious matters through to serious cases.
The goal of restorative justice is to repair the harm done and support the eventual return and reintegration of the offender into their community. Participating in a restorative process enables the offender to truly understand the harm they caused to not only the victim, but the entire community.
Principles of the Rhineland Area Justice Committee:
- The offender accepts responsibility for the incident and understands the harm.
- Restorative processes occur with the voluntary consent of the victim and offender.
- The offender, victim and community are, as much as possible, actively involved in the process of justice and resolution of the harm.
- Repairing the harm is a central concern - what laws have been broken is less important than how people have been harmed.
- All parties agree to the essential facts of the incident.
- All discussions will remain confidential.
- All agreements will be voluntary.
What are the benefits?
To the Victim and Community:
Restoration of the relationship with the offender and the ability to restore the harm done. The reception of an apology, mediation, restitution, or service to the community which does not occur in the formal court system.
To the Offender:
The offender receives a chance to repair the wrong they have done. They avoid potential criminal punishments, including a criminal record, and upon completion of the process are given a second chance to participate productively in our community. If, after two years, there are no more charges laid against the individual, the case is expunged and the offender receives a clear record. If there are additional charges within the 2 years, the initial cases can be brought back and prosecuted formally in the court system.
How does the RAJC work?
Community Justice Committees receive case referrals from the Police or Crown. Referrals may occur Pre-Charge or Post-Charge (prior to a guilty or not-guilty plea), where the Police or Crown believe a restorative justice approach is more beneficial to the victim, offender and community than going through the formal court system. The Justice Committee will only handle cases in which the offender accepts responsibility for the offense and is willing to be held accountable for the offending behaviour.
Meetings are held where the offender describes their offense and takes responsibility for it. Nothing said during the process, including admission of responsibility, can be used by the Police or Prosecution in the event where a case is not successfully completed or where it is sent back to the Crown or Police.
Where victims choose to participate, they are given a chance to share the impact of the crime on their lives, and what restitution and repair of the damage would look like.
The Justice Committee works with the victim and offender to determine what sanctions or alternative measures would be appropriate, and signs a contract with the offender. Upon completion of the measures the Crown or Police are informed that the process has been successfully completed.
Participation is not mandatory, and the offender can at any time withdraw from the process, in which scenario the case is sent back to Police or Crown for formal prosecution.
How can you help?
The Rhineland Area Justice Committee relies on volunteers to sit on the committee. Meetings are held approximately once per month, dependent on how many cases are referred.
One of the common sanctions given to the offender in the process is some form of community service. The Rhineland Area Justice Committee is in need of organizations that would be willing for offenders to complete community service within the Altona or Rhineland regions. Many municipal tasks require supervision or assistance that require more work than is gained by the offender providing community service. Projects where the offenders can work independently to give back to the community or where organizations are willing to work with or supervise the community service are needed.