Restorative Justice Week: Program provides both victims and offenders with alternatives

 rcmp-logoA store owner learns that a young cashier has been pocketing cash from some of his customers. He knows he should report it to the police, but remembers what it was like being young and misguided and doesn’t want to get his employee into too much trouble.

The parents of a young man who committed an offense, but who was not charged, want their son to better understand his actions. They are concerned that this incident could lead to future criminality if left unchecked.

In most of these cases the police would be called, an investigation would commence, and a lengthy court process would eventually begin. However, the Surrey RCMP offers an alternative to this process for some troubled youth through the Restorative Justice Program.

For the past six years, the Surrey RCMP’s Restorative Justice Program has been bringing victims of crime together with those who have caused them harm. The result is a constructive and meaningful response to crime and conflict which emphasizes accountability, understanding, problem-solving and healing for all parties.

“The feedback I continually hear from participants is that they are thankful there’s an option, an option between doing nothing and a criminal record,” says Jana Stocker, Surrey RCMP Restorative Justice Program Coordinator. “They are grateful that an alternative solution exists where their needs can be met, sometimes, at a greater level.”

The program is available for Surrey youth and young adults who have caused harm to another person, property, or community through their behaviour; acknowledge their involvement in a crime, consent to participate in the restorative justice process, and have no previous convictions or charges.

“Restorative Justice is a welcome alternative to our current legal system, especially for those looking for a more personal resolution,” says Surrey RCMP Sgt. Dale Carr. “Breaking down barriers and having those most affected meet face-to-face creates greater accountability and acts as a strong future deterrent to crime.”

The Restorative Justice Program has been in operation in Surrey since 2008. Since that time, over 800 youth and young adults have been referred to the program. The program uses various methods of intervention including community justice circles, mentorship, and mediations to resolve the issues and hurt between parties. To date, the program has facilitated over 600 restorative processes.

The types of files that the program receives range from property offences such as fraud, theft and mischief to files involving violence such as assault and robbery. The program also utilizes community volunteers who assist program participants with fulfilling their agreements such as apology letters and volunteering in the community.

“Our program is made up of a number of very dedicated volunteers that provide those extra judicial measures to individuals in our community who meet our criteria,” says Stocker. “With the support and referrals from the RCMP, I am very proud of what the team has accomplished.”

Restorative Justice Week is November 16-23. For more information, visit the Restorative Justice page on the Surrey RCMP’s website.