Community of Chestermere launches Restorative Justice Program
In a unique response to crime Restorative Justice will reduce frequency and severity of offending and victimization
On Wednesday, October 5 Chestermere launched a new Restorative Justice Program called Project Rewrite by kicking off fall training on the values-based approach to crime that challenges the notion criminal activity is between the courts and those responsible. The training provided participants a new approach where the recognition is shifted to a victim centred process. This first training was aimed at preparing program staff, community leaders, pastors and volunteers to prepare for cases referred to the program by the Chestermere RCMP. Over 15 people in Chestermere gathered to receive the training this week. “Restorative Justice was recommended to us at Synergy by our partners at the RCMP. Studies have proven that offenders who take responsibility for their actions in front of their victims are 80% less likely to reoffend within two years of completing the program (Alberta Department of Justice 2016). Also, victims who have the chance to be a part of the process are more likely to feel justice was served and less likely to have long term effects of the crime on their lives,” says Patty Sproule, Executive Director, Synergy. “Aligning with Synergy’s goals to empower youth and community groups to build strong connections through relationships and education Restorative Justice is a great fit and complimentary to how we serve in the community.”
In action, the program will focus on ensuring that the people responsible have the supports and services they need to avoid future criminality and ensures that those harmed have a voice in the process and consequences. “The program is not an easy out in fact in many ways it will require more of both victim and offenders. However, we know from research it is a healthier route towards having both parties involved. Having more say as a victim and in naming the harm as well as the offender accepting that actions have consequences even beyond what laws were broken. It is not easier it is healthier,” says Evan Dewald, Project Rewrite Facilitator, Synergy. Restorative Practice and Peacemaking circles are rooted in the history of Canada coming out of Indigenous traditions. Centered in the value of living in harmony with all things these practices developed as Indigenous peoples sought ways to listen, understand and create compassion within their communities.
For the past 30 years, the Canadian Justice System has been implementing Restorative Justice Programs (using restorative practices) as an alternative to the current punitive justice system. “The goal of Restorative Justice is to Identify harm that has been caused, promote healing and create resilience for long term safety and well-being. This results in reduced frequency and severity of offending and victimization and allows for a tailored timely and proportionate response for crime. Training in restorative justice practices will help the community to create spaces where relationships are built, decisions are made, ideas and perspectives are shared, and conflict is resolved,” says Kathy Klassen, Staff Sergeant, Chestermere RCMP. “As humans we are often motivated by fairness and justice. To me as a former pastor of 28 years and community leader I have often defined justice as “to make right”. Learning how to have critical conversations is powerful in the sharing of these strategies. For all ages the program is accessible and voluntary. I can’t think of a better way to respond than to come alongside the organizations and the RCMP to listen, heal, create resilience and safety within our city.” says Dewald. Synergy has partnered with the Alberta Government (Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General), City of Chestermere, Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada to bring in facilitator Gayle Desmeules. Gayle is an instructor for the International Institute for Restorative Practices and the Alberta Restorative Justice Association. Gayle founded True Dialogue Inc., a company that provides customized training, facilitation, mediation, and consulting services. Project Rewrite is about giving everyone involved a chance to rewrite their story - the crime, harm caused and the experience.
More details on Project Rewrite Restorative Justice program, visit: www.yoursynergy.ca/projectrewrite