Rural Red Deer Restorative Justice Program
July 14, 2022
In the Spring of 2021, the Rural Red Deer Restorative Justice pilot program was launched through the Crown and supported by the RCMP. This program works with youths, 12-25 years of age, who have committed less violent criminal acts. It is a voluntary process that addresses the victim’s needs and holds offenders responsible for their actions. This means that both the offender and the victim must agree to participate in this program.
The Rural Red Deer Restorative Justice program is a new program in Central Alberta, however, legal practices along the lines of restorative justice were first implemented in Canadian courts in the 1970s. There was a particular case where two offenders charged with vandalism met with their victims to form a restitution agreement.
What is Restorative Justice?
Restorative justice looks for the offender to take accountability for their crimes. This is an approach to justice that helps rectify any harm done from both the offender's and the victim's perspectives.
But how does restorative justice differ from traditional punishment methods in the justice system?
- Repair the effects caused by harm
- Offenders have an opportunity to improve
- Placing blame
- Ignoring the outcomes of harm
- Offenders are abandoned and can return to criminal activity
There is support for Restorative Justice programs throughout the Alberta justice system. The Crown launched this program, and RCMP members are even encouraged to refer appropriate cases to Restorative Justice programs.
The program is supported by community volunteers who see the impact Restorative Justice can have on youths and our community as a whole. The program is also overseen by the Community Advisory Council and the Red Deer County Police Advisory Committee.
How is Restorative Justice Carried Out?
The victims and those responsible for the criminal act meet to communicate and address their needs. Their families are also encouraged to participate to provide the most beneficial outcomes for both the victims and offenders.
Restorative justice uses processes, including conferences and dialogue, and is guided by trained facilitators. Of course, all participants' physical and psychological safety is upheld throughout the process. These methods are used to address both the causes and the consequences of offending, whether it is personal, relational or societal, to promote accountability, healing and justice.
Together, the group also discusses the offence and jointly develops a plan to repair the harm that has occurred. There is an opportunity to provide both the individuals involved a chance to heal, amend and reintegrate into society.
While reparation for both the victim and the offender are key components of restorative justice, there is an emphasis on offender accountability and repairing the harm caused by their actions.
Benefits of Restorative Justice
- Offender accountability
- Repaired harms
- Repaired relationships
- Victim satisfaction
- Reduced chance of offenders committing other crimes
- Lowered crime rates
- Help expedite criminal proceedings and reduce court delays
- Individuals feel safe and connected to their communities
- Support effective local crime prevention