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Restorative justice program faces funding woes despite success

June 16, 2009

From Cindy Chan’s article in The Epoch Times:  The 27-year-old Ottawa resident was only 12 when he started drinking
and smoking. At around 15 he experimented with cocaine. “That’s what
drove me to commit crimes, to steal for my drugs,” he said.

the Easter weekend of 2003, at age 20, he was arrested for armed
robbery. After a month in a detention centre, Mr. James was released to
Harvest House, an Ottawa residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation
centre that has helped thousands since it was founded in 1979.

He is still there today, but as a permanent employee. He now manages
fundraising for the charitable organization, has a three-year-old
daughter “who is like my world,” and is not shy to tell others about
his past and how he turned his life around.

During the ten
months he spent at Harvest House, Mr. James participated in the
Collaborative Justice Program (CJP) that operates from the provincial
courthouse in Ottawa.

CJP is a holistic approach to justice
that focuses on repairing the harm done and healing the parties
impacted by a crime. In the program, CJP officials facilitate
communication between the parties, which can be written, videotaped, or
relayed through the caseworker

“I changed my morals and my
mind around being really apologetic to the people I harmed. I
recognized that it wasn’t only the people I robbed but also my family
that I put in jeopardy and hurt,” said Mr. James.

Launched in
1998, the project was originally a pilot to demonstrate the use of a
restorative justice approach during the pre-sentencing period in cases
of serious crime.

The approach aims to help victims,
offenders, and their family and community—who voluntarily choose to
participate—undertake a process of healing by making a “resolution
agreement” that seeks to amend the harm as much as possible.

It could be a letter of apology, community service, restitution for
damage done, or a condition that the offender will engage in
counselling to address their behaviour’s root cause.

Read it all.


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