In May of 1999 a group of people met to train and begin a Restorative Justice program in Castlegar. There were 20 people trained to be facilitators and Inga Lamont was chosen to be the coordinator.
The mission statement was and still is, “To provide restorative justice which will facilitate achievable accountability of first-time offenders, while acknowledging the rights and needs of victims – thus enabling the participant to reintegrate into the community. The key condition for the Community Justice Forum is that the offender accepts responsibility for the offence. The Community Justice Forum provides for both the victim and the offender to be heard in a safe respectful process. This is called a forum. Everyone has a chance to speak out about the offence and tell how it has affected the victim, offender and the parents. The whole team decides on the best means of resolution to fit the crime and to give back to the community . A binding contract is signed by all parties and the facilitator checks on the case until the resolution is completed. During this time we have only had three case where the offender reoffended. In the court system the re-offence rate is over 50 per cent.
To run this program we need trained facilitators. This training requires the commitment to one weekend from Friday at 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday all day and Sunday until the early afternoon. Food is provided for coffee breaks, dinner on Friday and lunch on both Saturday and Sunday. To be a board member you do not have to take the training but it is to your advantage to know what the program is all about.
During the past 13 years we have heard 137 cases involving youth and adults. All but three contracts have been completed. The cases have involved theft, assault, mischief, arson, possession of stolen goods, break and enter, harassment by e-mail and texting and destruction of property.
This worthwhile program is in the process of closing down as we need more facilitators and board members. If you feel this is program which should remain in the community then please attend our AGM at the Castlegar Community Complex in the Columbia room on Tuesday April 17 at 7 p.m. Refreshments will be served. For further information please phone Inga Lamont 250-365-7500.