Restorative Justice Frequently Asked Questions
- Who can use restorative justice?
Restorative Justice Services are for young people (age 10-17) who commit a crime in Fort Collins. Most RJ cases deal with misdemeanors and first-time offenders. The program does accept felonies and repeat offenders after screening and approval from the referral source.
Victims of crime may also request a restorative justice conference. The request should be made to whatever agency is holding the offender responsible for the crime; courts, district attorney’s office, law enforcement, probation, etc.
- How do I make a referral to the RJ program?
Young offenders or their parents/guardians can ask to participate in a restorative justice program. A private citizen may ask for restorative justice conferencing to be used, however the request must be made to the source responsible for referring the matter (i.e. police officer, school official, district attorney, municipal court, etc.)
- What are the requirements to participate in a Restorative Justice Program?
- The offender takes responsibility for his or her actions.
- The offender's (if a youth) parent or guardian agrees to participate.
- The victim or victim representative agrees to participate in the conference.
- What is the difference between Restorative Justice and our traditional legal system?
Traditionally when a crime is committed, the justice system has been primarily concerned with three questions:
- Who did it?
- What laws were broken?
- What should be done to punish or treat the offender?
This type of approach is considered retributive, where the intent is to get retribution or punishment for an offense committed.
Restorative justice programs emphasize three different questions:
- What is the nature of the harm resulting from the crime?
- What needs to be done to "make it right" or repair the harm?
- Who is responsible for this repair?
This approach is restorative, where the intent is to restore the victim and community affected by the crime as close as possible to pre-crime conditions.
That is the basic philosophical difference. There are many other procedural differences as well.
- If I participate in a restorative justice conference, what goes into the contract?
In a Restorative Justice conference or RESTORE session, there will be minimum contract requirements, but you will be able to make choices about what should go into the contract. In RESTORE , the parent and youth make the contract choices, and in RJCP, the entire circle participates in deciding what goes into the contract. The contract is intended to repair the harm done by the incident to all who were affected, including; the victim, the community, the offender and family. The agreement should be acceptable to everyone present.
In both programs, there is a minimum involvement of 24-26 hours to complete the program. This includes meeting time.
- Who is part of a Restorative Justice conference?
A Restorative Justice conference is put together by the program staff (director and case manager) and community volunteers who help coordinate and facilitate these conferences. The circle will also include one or more victim/s or victim representatives, the offender or offenders, parents of any offender under 18, support people for the victim, other affected community members (if applicable) and community representatives, who are often trained restorative justice volunteers.
- What do people talk about in a restorative justice conference?
Conference participants focus the first part of the conference on who was affected or harmed by the incident (crime) and how they were affected. Everyone participates in this facilitated conversation. After the circle has identified all the harm caused by the incident, circle participants then discuss how the harm could be repaired. Again, everyone participates in this discussion. The circle then builds a contract for the offender to complete with the intent of repairing the harm caused by the incident, and addressing the needs and concerns of those who were affected and harmed. The offender is then given a deadline to complete the contract.