Anyone participating in a Restorative Justice Process should have a general understanding of why Restorative Justice is being considered, and what the circumstances for its use are. The most basic requirement is that a crime has been committed.
When a crime occurs, a referral might start a Restorative Justice process. At RJ Victoria, we deliver a variety of restorative justice services at various points in the criminal justice system.
We haves two main programs:
- a Diversion Program, where offenders are referred either pre- or post-charge and are held accountable by the victims and community without receiving a criminal record, and
- and an Integrated Restorative Justice Program, which works with victims and offenders after the offender has been convicted.
Since RJV is an independent not-for-profit organization that does its own fundraising, these services are provided at no cost to clients who are referred to us by our community partners (VicPD, Oak Bay PD, Crown, ICBC, and probation offices in Greater Victoria). We also accept referrals from individuals, businesses and other organizations on a sliding-scale fee – please contact us at (250) 383-5801 for more information.
A key element of our approach at RJV is to tailor each restorative justice dialogue to the clients’ needs. Staff and volunteers are trained in a variety of models, and are encouraged to creatively and collaboratively build an individualized process for each case. Below are the most common approaches we use, and each can be initiated at any time after an offence occurs, from pre-charge to post-conviction. Restorative justice is always voluntary for participants, and a great deal of screening and preparation goes into each case.
Restorative Justice Dialogue
This is our default model for most cases. Participants typically include two facilitators; the victim and his/her supporters; the offender and his/her supporters; a mentor to the offender (mandatory) and to the victim (optional); relevant community members; and the arresting/investigating police officer(s). After the facilitators guide the participants through structured and unstructured conversation, a consensus-based agreement is created that focuses on repairing the harm and addressing contributing factors of the offence. RJDs incorporate elements of conferencing, peacemaking circles, and victim-offender mediation.
Community Accountability Dialogue (CAD)
This model is similar to RJDs but is used in cases with no participating or identifiable victim. The majority of CADs occur in pre-charge “theft-under $5000” shoplifting cases where the victim is a large store that doesn’t wish to participate, but they are used for a variety of offences. Participants typically involve two facilitators; the offender and his/her supporters; a mentor to the offender; relevant community members; and the arresting/investigating police officer(s).
Victim – Offender Mediation
This model is typically used for cases that are already involved in the formal criminal justice system (post-charge or post-conviction). Participants generally include two facilitators, the victim, and the offender. Once understanding between the two is built, they may or may not craft a plan of restitution to repair the harm that has occurred; sometimes the dialogue alone satisfies the needs of the victim.
This model is typically quite unscripted and organic. It can handle very deep issues, and has been used by RJV to address anything from a school dispute to a traffic fatality. Participants are generally the same as an RJD, though circles can easily accommodate large groups of people. A defining characteristic of a peacemaking circle is a talking piece, which gives participants the chance to speak for as long as they wish without interruption from others. It gets passed around the circle either to the left or the right, making the order of speaking cyclical and predictable.
Victim Healing Circles
This model is similar to a peacemaking circle but does not include the responsible party. This may be due to the responsible party never being caught, not being appropriate or available for restorative justice, or the affected party not wanting them to participate. Participants are determined by the affected party and may include the affected party’s supporter(s), others impacted by the offence (e.g. witnesses or neighbours), relevant professionals (e.g. victim service workers), and justice professionals (e.g. police, Crown, or probation). The goal is typically to provide support, validation, and closure to the affected party.