Correctional Service Canada (CSC) recognizes the third week of November as national restorative justice week.
Restorative justice is a philosophy that views crime and conflict as harm to people and relationships, according to CSC. It emphasizes healing in victims, accountability of offenders and involvement of citizens in creating safer communities.
Arrowsmith Community Justice Society (ACJS) has been operating a restorative justice and a community dispute program in Oceanside for 21 years. The program focuses on holding offenders accountable by taking action to repair harm they have caused.
It provides for immediate, active participation by the victim, the offender and the community in the process of repairing the fabric of community peace, according to ACJS.
Oceanside RCMP have an option to divert people involved in crime to the ACJS program — victims and offenders must agree to participate or it goes back to police for alternate handling. There are many benefits to going through the program rather than the court system, according to Oceanside RCMP.
Restorative justice gives victims a voice in the process and gives them a chance to ask questions of the offender.
“The victim is part of the restitution process and has input into what they feel is a fair and reasonable resolution,” said Corp. Jesse Foreman in a statement.
Restorative justice speeds up processing of offenders and leaves them without a criminal record, according to RCMP. The process gives them a chance to take accountability and heal the harm they caused.
Restorative justice benefits the community and the cost is negligible, since it is run by volunteers, RCMP said. Meetings happen within 30 days of the crime and a resolution it completed within 90 days.
ACJS has processed 876 offenders through restorative justice, according to RCMP.
“The number of community service hours totals 4,188, which equals $42,000 of value back into the community,” said Foreman.
Many victims do not want financial benefit and opt to donate their restitutions, RCMP said. As a result, $16,200 has been donated to various Oceanside charities.