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LETTER: Exploring the benefits of restorative justice


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The week of Nov. 17-23 was designated Restorative Justice Week nationally. Pictured here are Hants County volunteer Roz MacDuff, left, and Valley Restorative Justice staff member Ruth Winterhalt. (Submitted photo)

The week of Nov. 17-23 was designated Restorative Justice Week nationally and this year’s theme is Inspiring Innovation.

Valley Restorative Justice (VRJ) is a non-profit, community-based agency that has been in place since 1999, which responds to youth crime within our catchment area of the counties of Annapolis, Kings and West Hants.

Valley Restorative Justice is one of nine agencies province wide delivering restorative justice programs to Nova Scotia youth and those who are harmed by these criminal acts.

Referrals to VRJ can come from several points in the justice system, including police, Crown attorneys, judges and corrections staff.

VRJ is funded by the Nova Scotia Department of Justice and is administered locally by a volunteer board of directors. Trained volunteers also aid in facilitating the restorative process. 

The goals of the Nova Scotia Restorative Justice program are to reduce recidivism, increase victim satisfaction, strengthen communities, and increase confidence in the criminal justice system as a whole.  Restorative justice emphasizes the importance of elevating the role of crime victims and community members through more active involvement in the justice process by holding the offender accountable to the people and communities they have harmed, by restoring the emotional and material losses of victims, and by providing a range of opportunities for dialogue, negotiation, and problem solving, whenever possible, which can all lead to greater community safety, social harmony, and peace for all involved.

Restorative interventions have been found to provide many benefits to victims as they are able to receive information about the crime, express the impact of the crime and gain a greater sense of closure, including some form of restitution in many cases.

This year’s theme, inspiring innovation, is particularly suited to Nova Scotia communities because of the growth of using restorative justice approaches in many areas, not only in the realm of the justice system, but also in schools, in the workplace, in university communities and as a means of handling disputes through the Human Rights Commission to name a few.

Restorative justice respects individual and community diversity and it can incorporate different cultural and spiritual practices, working towards a healthier community.  

 

Marge DeBodt,

Director of Valley Restorative Justice

 

 

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