Why Restorative Justice?
Restorative justice gives victims a voice in deciding how the harms caused by crime will be redressed. They can say what happened to them and talk about it with supportive, trained community members. They can also speak directly with offenders.
Restorative justice puts offenders in a position to take an active role in repairing the harms done, in making things better.
In short, it’s about accountability, inclusion, and making things as right as possible. C4RJ uses a circle process to guide the discussion and ensure that all voices are respectfully heard.
In this five-minute clip, Arlington Police Chief Frederick Ryan and C4RJ's Executive Director Erin Freeborn describe how C4RJ's process can enhance the role of the police:
What are the Benefits of RJ for the Referring AGENCY?
Compared with typical prosecution:
You have more influence over the outcome.
- In a circle process, your role is not just to report the basic facts of the crime, but also to talk about the nuances—matters beyond the black and white. You might know, for instance, that the victims had been targeted previously and were understandably nervous. You could speak to the demeanor of the offender on the scene.
- You can contribute ideas for how the harm can be repaired: local sites for community service, for example, or a particular take on how to make amends.
You help make the response to crime local.
- In the circle, you help represent the community. You have important insights about community norms and values.
You can be of greater support to the victim.
- You’re in a unique position to present a restorative justice option to victims. That can be of immense significance to victims at a time when they need options. And because you’ll be engaged from start to finish, and not just reporting back on what happened in court, you’ll help us keep victims' needs at the forefront throughout.
You can engage more meaningfully with offenders.
- You can lend your personal story to the process: what was it like for you to respond to the crime? Stories like that lend dimension to – and often engender greater respect for – police work.
- You work (and maybe even live) in the same community with those affected by the crime. Engaging in restorative justice can help improve relations with community members.
What Makes a Good Case for Restorative Justice?
We have 3 criteria:
- The victim is willing to have the case come to us instead of pressing charges or letting the offender be summonsed.
- The offender is admitting the wrongdoing. (They may not understand the full ripple effects of the harm. That’s OK. Such understanding will emerge in the process. See FAQ for more.)
- We can be reasonably sure of a safe process. (If there are physical or emotional risks, we may return the case to you).
What’s NOT appropriate for restorative justice?
- Cases that do not meet the above criteria are not appropriate referrals.
- C4RJ does not accept cases of intimate-partner abuse because of the risk that an abuser might manipulate the process. We have accepted, and will consider, instances of battery by children of parents or sibling harm.
- C4RJ does not accept cases involving motor vehicle charges (per RMV requirements).
- Generally, the most successful cases are those in which an individual or institution has been affected or harmed. When there’s no aggrieved party (e.g., simple drug possession), restorative justice is less productive. Do consider restorative justice in instances in which there is harm or feared potential harm to a community or group that might be represented in the circle.
If you’re uncertain whether a referral is appropriate or if you have other questions, call 978.318.3447 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We frequently discuss potential referrals by phone with officers and others.