This week is national Restorative Justice Week. The Saanich Police participates in an innovative alternative measures program with the John Howard Society of Victoria, known as the Saanich Community Justice Initiative.
The Saanich Community Justice Initiative is an innovative out of court process to deal with an offence. The most common offences referred by officers include thefts and mischiefs.
This year to the end of October, there were 172 referrals from the Saanich Police for minor offences. Of those, 168 were successfully diverted and 4 resulted in Community Conferences. Over 1300 hours of community service was completed, $1600 in restitution collected, 123 apologies completed, and 17 essays.
A Community Conference brings together the victim, the accused and their respective support groups with trained facilitators. This is meant to allow free, safe expression of emotions. Victims can express what actions they feel are needed to repair the harm and address the behaviour. An agreement is formulated by the group and a completion date for the resolution is determined.
Possible outcomes include apologies, community service work, letter to victims, restitution etc. A great example of community service is where offenders are assigned to Commonwealth pool to perform cleaning, maintenance and graffiti removal. While they are performing their hours at Commonwealth, the youth can also access courses for free like Food-safe and first-aid, to help give them some life-skills.
Some of the benefits of this initiative are that it involves the victims, it gets the community involved and encourages the accused to take responsibility for their actions.
“Our officers fully support this program. It is a great alternative to sending someone into the criminal justice system,” says Sgt. Dean Jantzen. For information about the John Howard society please contact them at 250-386-3428.