Restorative Justice Panels

People referred to Restorative Justice Panels participate in a restorative process in which they are asked to
  • Admit wrong doing and talk about it
  • Learn about the effects of the crime on others
  • Work with others to design and carry out a plan for making amends and for making better choices in the future
Victims/survivors of a crime are invited to ask questions, let the person who offended know how the crime affected them and/or help create a plan for making amends. The choices available to the people affected by a crime include:
  • Attend a meeting and participate in the conversation
  • Give information in writing to be shared with the person who offended
  • Give information in writing to panel members only
  • Not participate at all

Who is Referred

People may be referred for a restorative response through a number of programs: 
  • Reparative Probation--adjudicated in court, found guilty and sentenced to a restorative meeting in addition to being supervised by a Probation Officer
  • Restorative Justice Alternative (pre-charge)--referred for a restorative response prior to being charged for the offense. These referrals primarily come from local police departments or schools.
  • Restorative Justice Alternative (charged)--referred for a restorative response after being charged but instead of being adjudicated in court.  

Restorative Justice Panel Meetings

The MCJC has seven Montpelier Restorative Justice Panel meetings a month, plus two each in Waterbury and Northfield, where trained volunteers meet with people who have offended and their victims, if any, to talk about what happened, identify who was harmed and how, and collaboratively create an agreement to make amends and not reoffend. Panel members help everyone communicate and make the meeting as comfortable as possible. Meetings are held in a community setting. They are structured, but informal.

The Basics of a Restorative Justice Panel Meeting

  • Focus on the effect of the wrongdoing--on individuals and community.
  • Give victims/survivors a chance to ask questions and tell about how they have been harmed.
  • Have a conversation about what happened.
  • Work together on a plan for the person who has offended to do what he/she can to make amends for the past and make better choices for the future.

What Happens at a Meeting 

Community volunteers run the meeting, which lasts about an hour. Everyone has a chance to talk in turn about
  • What happened
  • Who was affected
  • How people, including the community, were affected
  • What the person who offended will do to make amends
  • What the person who offended will do to keep from committing future offenses
The participants at the Restorative Justice Panel work together to write an agreement that may include activities such as
  • Attend a class to learn about the impact of the incident
  • Do volunteer work to create a connection with community
  • Fix damaged property
  • Write letters of explanation and apology

What Happens after the Meeting

  • The person who offended returns to a Review Meeting to show that he or she did everything in the agreement
  • Unless decided otherwise, the person who offended will have two months to complete activities included in the Restorative Justice Agreement
  • Victims/survivors are invited to the Review Meeting

How it Makes a Difference

Studies show that people who are placed on reparative probation instead of traditional probation are less likely to reoffend. In Vermont, researchers showed that those on reparative probation were 23% less likely to commit another crime than those sentenced to traditional probation, and were 12% less likely to commit another crime after probation ended. The authors of Reparative Versus Standard Probation: Community Justice Outcomes (PDF) tracked 5-year reoffending rates of more than 9,000 persons convicted of misdemeanor crimes between 1998-2000. 

Want to Serve on a Restorative Justice Panel?

Visit the Volunteer! page if you are interested in volunteering to be a Restorative Justice Panel member.