Utilizing the principles and practices of restorative justice
St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice works with victims, offenders and communities to respond to the effects of crime and conflict. Restorative justice is a philosophy and set of principles that emphasizes one fundamental fact: Crime and conflict damages people, communities and relationships. SCV Restorative Justice sessions and services focus on offender accountability and identifying constructive responses to crime and conflict.
SCV Restorative Justice services are voluntary to all participants. In legal cases, the offender is often given certain obligations by the judge, the court, a social worker and/or an intake worker. We additionally accept requests for conferencing from individuals, community groups, schools and businesses for conflict resolution consulting and conferencing.
All referral-based sessions (excluding the Victim Impact Panel) are in the structured restorative justice circle process. Sessions focus on accountability and positive behavior change. Offender participants are involved in a group dialogue with volunteer community stakeholders to address what needs to happen to make things better or right, or identify constructive responses and goals to their behavior. Participation is required, and individuals complete a restorative justice agreement based on what they commit to doing differently moving forward.
Sessions are based on values developed from each group. The values are used as an introduction and guidelines for appropriate, respectful behavior from all parties throughout the process. Group sizes are kept small, typically 4-10 offender participants per group. Each group works through four stages to complete the session curriculum. A speaker is typically involved in the process to focus on specific consequences of unsafe or risky behaviors. Community stakeholders or representatives are involved in each session.
SCV Restorative Justice offers speakers for special topics in both panel or individual presentations. Speakers are introduced by SCVRJ staff or facilitators. Using restorative guidelines for speaking, they address topics based on their personal impact. SCVRJ provides structure and training for all speakers.
Speakers are frequently direct or indirect victims. SCVRJ additionally works with select offenders who are actively involved and compliant in probation or individuals who are in recovery from addiction.
A Restorative Conference brings together stakeholders around a central topic or issue. Typically, this process fosters dialogue between a crime’s perpetrator or responsible party, victims or harmed parties, and the affected community.
All participants meet with facilitators prior to ever coming together in a conference. Preparatory meetings help form a plan for moving forward based on the concerns of the group. Facilitators lead the group through the conferencing process.
Participants will share their personal experience of what happened and how they were impacted. Conferences identify constructive responses to the situation and use consensus to develop plans to move forward.
- Victims are able to express how they were impacted and ask questions
- Offenders are provided the opportunity to be accountable for their actions by explaining their situation, answering questions and contributing to the plan to repair harm
- Community stakeholders are able to be engaged and involved in the process
The outcome of the conference is often a written agreement. Additional meetings may be required. The actions that were discussed will be agreed on and written out in detail. Agreements may involve a variety of practical solutions to the problem. Research shows that 90% of Restorative Justice Conferences result in agreements and positive feelings on both sides. Because they involve a collective response to the problem, conference agreements tend to increase the support provided by the local community where people are affected by the offense.
Agreements are a key part of sessions and conferencing. Conferences have the option to produce a formalized document to be signed by each individual stating what needs to happen to make things better or right. Agreements are based on consensus of the group and must be achievable. Agreements typically address the obligations created by the harm caused by the central crime or conflict.
Alternatively named “Commitment Form” at SCVRJ sessions, offender participants work through the group dialogue process to complete their agreement stating what they will do differently moving forward. Commitment forms are available to the referring agency; all forms include a disclosure statement. Commitment forms are not an admission to past actions or behaviors.
Each session or conference helps individuals identify constructive responses to the crime. Offender participants verbally share their public commitment to better, safer decisions. They additionally reflect on choices that will impact themselves and their family, school or community.