Government has proclaimed Nov. 18-25 as “Restorative Justice Week” to highlight the important work of restorative justice groups and recognize their value in building safer communities. This year’s national theme, Diverse Needs; Unique Responses, highlights the adaptability of the restorative justice process.
Groups of dedicated community volunteers throughout the province draw on various restorative justice approaches to address the specific circumstances and impacts related to a particular crime or conflict.
In Williams Lake, a group of volunteers offer restorative justice for people in the region.
“We have a very active group of very committed volunteers in Williams Lake,” says community safety co-ordinator Dave Dickson. “We have a total of 30 qualified facilitators as well a number have taken the extra steps to become trainers.”
The volunteers handle a variety of cases referred to them by the RCMP, Crown Counsel and in some cases School District 27. Restorative justice seeks to create fair outcomes by repairing the harm caused to victims of crime and violence, typically achieved through a process that addresses victims’ individual needs and holds offenders accountable for their actions.
Dickson says as a rule the outcomes are very positive in the region. The sole goal is to do it in a timely prompt fashion to repair the harm that has been done and through this process they’ve “been very successful.”
They average 50 cases a year and volunteers put in excess of 1,000 hours. So far in 2012, they’ve clocked 860 hours, and November’s hours have yet to be tallied.
Community support comes from the Ramada Inn and Thomson Rivers University who supply meeting rooms for circles and meetings. Both partners are truly appreciated Dickson says, adding the Restorative Justice Program operates on a shoe string budget, with insurance likely being the highest cost.
When businesses and agencies come forward with that support it really shows their commitment to making Williams Lake a better place, he adds.
Approximately 50 community-based programs throughout B.C. accept some 1,400 referrals annually. Staff and volunteers devote more than 90,000 hours to restorative justice each year in B.C.