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Communities for Restorative Justice: Climate for Freedom Award Nominee

Communities for Restorative Justice

Communities for Restorative Justice has been growing very slowly, very carefully, since 2000, working with some of the hardest issues in our community – with criminals, often young offenders – who have committed a crime in the community. C4RJ helps victims heal, encourages positive change for offenders, and restores the community’s well-being.

Its work is well-presented in its web site, at www.c4rj.com; it is run by one to two staff and about 70 volunteers. It has slowly added to its caseload over the past 7 years – now it’s up to maybe 30 cases a year. Not much, given the crime statistics in the cities around us and the country as a whole; but the program has very strong suppoer from local police, from members of the local communities which re beginning to use it, from the victims and frequently from the young offenders themselves and their families.

Compared to treatment within the criminal justice system, the offences dealt with in the restorative justice community have a lower incidence of recidivism and fear of revictimisation, and higher rankings in victim and offender satisfaction and completed restitution.

The organization may be a model of effective management, something rare in volunteer-staffed non-profits. The program was essentially initiated by Concord’s police department, so started off with demanding standards. The newly-hired director comes with a strong multi-cultural, international, academic and fieldwork background. Operations are managed for a fee by an external organization specializing in the administration of small non-profits. Programs are slowly developed, usually with strong community support before they are launched. And staffing is by well-trained and monitored volunteers, working with tested programs in the restorative justice area. These programs are often developed by local universities with their new Restorative Justice Programs. And, a final asset provided by C4RJ – all of this material is easy to access on their intuitively named website www.c4rj.com (look out, though, it’s dot-com, not dot-org!)

The attached documentation will give you more food for thought – the budget, the write-up, a report from a young offender. They’re all printed out and attached to this.

But it wasn’t till I’d known this organization for a couple of years myself that I realized how important RJ circles could be to local families and their children. Twelve years ago a recently-graduated CCHS student, Mark, killed himself over a Summer’s weekend between being caught joy-riding and going before the judge. We parents who consciously formed the “village” for our dozen kids still don’t know what happened. What a difference a restorative justice circle might have made. And a few years later a younger child was involved in shop-lifting – and blessedly the police agreed one of their officers would talk to her instead of charging her; it was rough justice – he let her know his anger and her parents had to sit and shiver – but just that face-to-face meeting probably changed the child’s life – in the right direction! Again, how great a restorative justice circle would have been.

Web site: www.c4rj.com

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The Concord-Carlisle Human Rights Council is a community organization of volunteers working together to foster respect, understanding, good will, and conciliation among individuals and groups in the community. It is dedicated to the belief that all people are entitled to dignity and respect. The role of the Human Rights Council is one of education and advocacy.

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