Restorative justice is a response to crime that focuses on restoring the losses suffered by victims and communities. It holds offenders accountable for the harm they have caused. Restorative justice is a different way of thinking about crime and our response to crime.
It is Restorative Justice Week in Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia's Restorative Justice Program provides improved access to justice for youth and adults. Restorative justice requires offenders to take responsibility for their actions and truly appreciate the harm they have done. This helps victims and their families get the closure and support they need to heal.
It is proven to be a good option for victims, offenders and communities.
Adult Restorative Justice is available throughout Nova Scotia and is administered through eight community justice agencies and the Mi'kmaq Legal Support Network (MLSN).
Megan and Carolyn's story is a powerful example of Restorative Justice working at its very best.
It is a different way of delivering justice.
It provides an opportunity for the victim and community to have a voice.
It allows victims and community decide together on a just and fair outcome.
Everyone has a say.
One night two intoxicated young adults went exploring through a building on university property.
While inside, they took a very expensive piece of equipment from a classroom. During the theft, the stolen item was damaged. The next morning when the instructors entered their classroom they discovered the equipment was missing and they were devastated. Without this equipment students wouldn't be able to complete their required assignments for the year.
In November 2016, the Nova Scotia Restorative Justice Program was expanded and adults were given the option to participate in the program and this matter was referred by the Crown.
The Restorative Justice Program provides an opportunity for those who have caused harm, those who have been affected and those who can support the participants to come together to talk about what happened, share the impacts and work on a plan together to repair the harm.
The University identified representatives from the school who would attend the restorative meeting to share the impact this offence had on the school and community. They wanted their voice to be heard and to have input into what would help them move forward.
Both adults accepted responsibility for their role in the offence; they were remorseful and ashamed of their behavior. Once the restorative process was underway both started to think about the impact their actions had on the school, the students and the community. They could see that their actions had a ripple effect.
At the Restorative meeting representatives from the university were able to explain how this piece of equipment was an integral part of their program. How hundreds of students were affected by their actions and how both staff and students shared an unnecessary financial burden. The university had the opportunity to hear the individuals accept responsibility and express their remorse.
Through both the university program and the Restorative Justice program these two young adults were able to arrange paying restitution for the equipment, apologize for their actions and work with campus security to get a better understanding of the valuable work they do to keep the campus safe.
All parties were satisfied with the process and felt their voices were heard.
During a routine traffic stop, 18g of marijuana was found on a male youth.
This was the youth's first time being in conflict with the law. Instead of charging the young man, the investigating officer chose to refer him to Nova Scotia's Restorative Justice Program. She wanted him to have the opportunity to make better choices and to understand the path he would be lead down if he continued to involve himself with the group that he was found with.
The young male, the RJ agency and community members came together to discuss what happened, how his actions have affected himself, his family and his community and how he could learn from this experience. Agreement terms were finalized. The young male would complete counselling at Mental Health and Addictions and a write an apology to the investigating officer. The young male completed his agreement successfully.
We know that change is often not a quick fix. Change is a process, not an event.
During the course of the young male's restorative justice term, he was found hanging out at the neighbors where police again found him to be in possession of marijuana. This time, he would not be referred to Restorative Justice and the charges would be laid. The RJ agency did receive his file to assist in placing the young male in the community to complete community service hours, as part of his sentencing.
The RJ agency placed the young male at a local church, where he successfully completed his hours, built a strong bond within his community and learned new skills. His help was needed and very much appreciated which gave the young man a sense of belonging and importance.
The Parish Administrator provided an experience statement to talk about how appreciative they were of his service and how it has benefited the young male, as well as his community. Within the statement, she states:
"The young man was very personable, quiet and polite"
"The experience was certainly a positive one of us"
"He was willing to tackle all the tasks asked of him"
"Our young worker was shown respect and gratitude for what he did for us"
"The program was very beneficial to our Parish"
"Your office made the whole process very easy to manage... Made us all feel that we were part of a team effort"
Since this time, the young man has made positive changes in his life, is no longer hanging out with the neighbours, has been doing extremely well in school and football, and has also started a new job.