| Photo by Jim Sheridan
The Montpelier Community Justice Center (MCJC) was established in 2003 with the following mission:
To ensure that the people it serves have the resources they need to resolve conflicts and promote problem solving in creative ways that encourage feelings of fairness, safety, and inclusion.
The MCJC is part of the growing Restorative Justice movement that institutionalizes peaceful approaches to harm, problem-solving, and violations of legal and human rights.
Restorative approaches to crime
view wrongdoing in terms of harm to people, damage to relationships, and disruption of peace in the community. The restorative approach holds those who commit crimes accountable for their actions, gives victims of crime
a voice in the process, and provides an opportunity for everyone involved to decide how to best repair the harm and prevent future occurrences.
Restorative approaches to conflict
help people find a way out of conflict as they untangle problems and find solutions that really work for them. In order to help neighbors or others who disagree, we listen to individual concerns, act as a go-between, create productive and comfortable ways for people to come together and talk -- and we follow through until everyone agrees that the matter is settled.
How Restorative Justice Benefits Communities
Those who go through a restorative justice process:
Gain an understanding of the aftermath of their actions:
- "I realized that I had harmed more people and businesses than I was aware of. One bad decision can have enormous repercussions."
- "[The Victim Impact Panel] really put a face on drunk driving ... [I met] people who have directly been affected, seeing the pain firsthand."
- "This was especially hard for me because I have a hard time with confrontation, but hearing what [the victims] had to say meant a lot to me. I will always remember this."
- "At the beginning, I thought it was a bunch of bull. After doing what you asked me to, I realized the damage I had done. So thank you for your help and insight."
Take responsibility by making amends:
- "The Rep Board taught me how to be accountable for my actions and to not just consider those that I immediately affected. This was a great chance for me to make amends."
- "[Participating in this process was meaningful] because it shows that I am sorry for what I have done."
- "Trying to help make amends to the victims is good for them and for me because it gives them a chance to tell me how they feel."
- "Because of the thought that I had to put into the writing of these [apology] letters ... I really understand the damage I had done to other people."
Make a plan to make better choices in the future:
Restorative Justice Makes a Difference
- "I took the time to understand how this affected my community ... and made financial limits for myself so this wouldn't happen again." (Offense: passing bad checks)
- "[I'm going to] take my meds, ask for help, forgive myself and remember those affected." (Offense: counterfeiting)
- "I've been a lot more careful about who I hang out with because my friends probably have the most influence on my life. Hopefully making better friends will reduce the chances of me doing something stupid like that again." (Offense: possession of marijuana)
- "I learned how to enjoy life safer and have fun without alcohol." (Offense: DUI #2)
People affected by a crime who have participated in a Reparative Process have said:
- "I found peace with the incident and all involved."
- "I believe this person truly saw the error of her ways."
- "I really don't think we'll have a repeat offense."