The Communities for Restorative Justice (C4RJ) provides and promotes a community-driven complement to the judicial system that helps victims heal, supports youth offenders in making positive change, and restores community harmony. The Concord and Carlisle Police chiefs embrace the philosophy that young people learn more through this nurturing restorative justice model than the traditional legal system. These Police Departments refer cases to C4RJ if the victim(s) agrees to participate and the youth offender(s) acknowledges responsibility for the harm done. These civil cases involve trained C4RJ volunteers paired with victims and offenders to mentor them through the process.
Recently, Bridget Saltonstall brought the Human Rights Council perspective to a restorative justice case. Bridget joined the youth, their parents, victims, volunteer mentors and law enforcement in a formal “Circle.” First the victims described the harm they had experienced and the impact on them. The offender shared what happened and discussed their understanding of the harm they had caused. Mentors helped all parties bring forward facts and feelings. Bridget explained how seriously our communities regard anti-Semitic and racial slurs as well as how devastating their impact can be on individuals and the community.
Bridget reports, “I was struck by the sheer power of the whole experience. There was no escaping the utter seriousness of the situation, the depth of emotions, the enormous caring on the part of everyone focusing on that youth in the Circle. We all knew that this Circle was potentially a life-changing event.”
Circle participants come to agreement about measures the offender will fulfill to make amends, taking into consideration the victim’s needs and wishes and the shared values of the community. With support from the C4RJ mentor, the youth will complete this restitution agreement. All participants then return to the Closing Circle and witness the transformation in the youth’s understanding of the incident and its consequences.
Other victim-centered crimes referred to C4RJ have included a bomb scare, computer theft, shoplifting, misuse of a credit card, malicious destruction of property, drive-by shooting with a cap gun, vandalism, and breaking and entering. Examples of restitution agreement items include hand-written apology letters, raising money to pay for the damage, journaling, and community service relevant to the offense. C4RJ also handles some minor-in-possession-of-alcohol cases in which each youth has a separate Circle with their parents, mentor, and a substance abuse counselor, who has already had a confidential meeting with the youth, and who provides recommendations in the agreement based on the needs of the youth.
For more information about Communities for Restorative Justice, please call Jennifer Larson Sawin, MA, Executive Director, at 978-318-3447, jlarsonsawin@C4RJ.com.
Jennifer Larson Sawin, MA
Communities for Restorative Justice
219 Walden Street
P.O. Box 65
Concord, MA 01742