RESTORATIVE JUSTICE COMES TO TUMBLER RIDGE

The Restorative Justice Program has officially arrived in Tumbler Ridge, BC. This program compliments the present justice system, and by no means is here to interfere, contradict or replace what presently happens in the Provincial Court.

Our society is a society of laws and depends upon a well-functioning judiciary in order that we have stability and security in our day-to-day lives. There are countless examples when the Provincial Courts either do not render satisfactory judgments, or where they are simply the wrong venue to resolve disputes and minor violations of the law. What should we, as a society, do with a twelve year old child who breaks a window? What if the window was on an old garage and it cost ten dollars to replace? What if it was a plate glass window on a downtown office building costing over a $1000 to fix?

It is very tiresome when an offender goes to court and receives the proverbial ?slap on the wrist.? Especially if the offender is a repeat offender and the seriousness of his or her actions never seem to register with them. That is the main reason why there is a Restorative Justice Program in Tumbler. The program has two goals. The first is to restore the victim to where they were before the offense. If property was stolen or damaged, the ?victim? needs to have the items replaced or repaired. The second goal is to restore the offender back to society. This restoration is not a ?forgive and forget? remedy, but it is a ?take responsibility for your actions? type of remedy. Only when these two goals are met, is the program successful.

At present, Tumbler Ridge has five trained facilitators who are able to guide both the victim and offender to reconciliation. This, at times, can be a very difficult process; however the outcome is worth the effort. The program is for first time offenders who are willing to take responsibility for their actions. If there is no ownership of the problem, then the matter proceeds directly to court. By participating in the program, and completing all conditions as required, the ?offender? does not receive a criminal record.

The program was used successfully on three recent cases. The first case, two youths burnt a hole in a plastic slide that was owned by the Community Centre. The youths were required to write letters of apology to the Community Centre, to the citizens of Tumbler Ridge (who own the slide) and were required to pay for a new slide.

The second case involved two youths who stole two pizzas at the curling rink. A class of elementary students was learning how to curl and had the pizzas delivered for lunch. The pizzas were sitting on the bleachers at the curling rink while the students finished up with the class. The two youths happened to walk by, smelled the pizza and stole them. Again, letters of apology were required as was the replacement of the pizza.

The third case, two youths entered the Community Center in the wee hours of the morning. They walked around the Centre and eventually stole a bag of chips from the restaurant. Part of the conditions that these youths had to abide by were letters of apology to the community and they both had to clean the grease pits at the restaurant.

If you are interested in becoming a Restorative Justice facilitator, please drop by the office, I would be happy to speak with you.

Cpl. Kurt Peats