For Immediate Release
November 17, 2014
Saanich Community Justice Initiatives
VICTORIA – On November 17th, Saanich Police hosted a panel of victims, offenders, police officers, and RJ practitioners speaking together about the transformative impacts of restorative justice in their community. The panel, organized in collaboration with Saanich Community Justice Initiatives, an RJ program run through the John Howard Society of Victoria since 2002, was held in honour of Restorative Justice Week 2014, which runs November 16th – 23rd.
“When I was arrested I’d been stuck in a harmful pattern of criminal behaviour that stemmed from my upbringing. No one had ever held me accountable, so I didn’t know how to hold myself accountable,” said 19 year old Laura who was recently arrested for possession of stolen property. “Restorative justice helped me see a different path for my future, a better path. I’m now working on a project with the very officer who arrested me to help promote public safety. Before RJ, I viewed police as my enemy, now I’m actually thinking of pursuing a career in policing.”
Restorative Justice is an approach to dealing with crime and conflict that seeks to promote accountability, meaningful reparation, and addressing the root causes of harmful behaviour. It provides a platform for major stakeholders (victims, offenders, police & community) to work together towards an effective resolution. It is essentially adaptive in nature, and has effective results in a vast array of contexts, ranging from the prevention programs in schools, to post-sentencing healing circles that occur within federal penitentiaries.
Agencies and individuals in British Columbia have been recognized nationally for their pioneering efforts. Approximately 50 community-based programs throughout B.C. accept over 1,400 referrals annually. Vancouver Island alone has 16 programs, who work together in a grassroots alliance called VIRJJA (Vancouver Island Regional Restorative Justice Association). Staff and volunteers devote more than 90,000 hours to restorative justice each year in B.C. While program funding remains a major obstacle, RJ advocates are confident that the incredible benefits will soon be realized by governments at all levels and there will be a fervent effort to increase its funding and its use throughout our communities.
Recent quotes from Victims and Offenders in Victoria:
“I have gained an understanding of the person who caused harm, context, and how the events of the day affected him and his life. It assured me that despite the incident, there is genuine desire to heal the harm caused.”
“It has proven to me that most things can be resolved in a manner that will benefit both parties. …My faith in the inherent good in people has recovered, though I know I will always run into situations that are less than ethical or moral. It just feels great to have been so involved in a process that was a healing process for both parties.”
“Restorative justice helped me discover the issues I had deep down that lead to the incident. I felt like the officers, although they arrested me, still had a heart to see through a criminal charge and into the reasons I committed a crime and made difficult choices. It was nice to hear someone did not just treat me as a case.”
“I definitely am more cautious of how my actions (even small) will affect someone. I also have become more responsible with choices and have begun to live not just for myself but for the people that matter to me.”
“It was a growing experience. Felt I learned something about myself and who I am and learned about my values.”
For More Information:
BC Provincial Proclamation on RJ Week: http://www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/crimeprevention/shareddocs/RestorativeJusticeProclamation.pdf
BC RJ Week 2014 Events Calendar: http://www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/crimeprevention/shareddocs/RestorativeJusticeEvents.pdf
Restorative Justice Week, Corrections Service of Canada webpage: http://www.csc-scc.gc.ca/restorative-justice/003005-2000-eng.shtml
For Radio, T.V., or Print Interviews Contact:
Nathalie Down, Program Coordinator
Saanich Community Justice Initiatives
O: (250) 386 3426 C: (250) 884 2721
Sgt. Steve Eassie #158