Restorative justice provides the opportunity for those most directly affected by crime — the victim, the offender, their families, and community members – to be directly and actively involved in responding to the harm caused by crime. By coming together for a dialogue, all parties can discuss what happened, how it has affected their lives, and what can be done to repair the harm. Restorative Justice promotes offender accountability and responsibility, victim empowerment and satisfaction, and community collaboration and safety. This philosophy and approach is in line with CRC′s mission, and we are pleased to offer Restorative Justice Programs here.
Our Victim Offender Dialogue Program provides a forum for victims, juvenile offenders, and family members to meet and talk in a safe, respectful and constructive environment, facilitated by the Program Director and a trained Community Volunteer. At the dialogue, the parties discuss the effects of the crime on all of their lives and develop a mutually agreeable plan for the offender to follow that addresses the harm caused by the crime. The program handles a wide variety of cases, ranging from non-violent to violent offenses and from misdemeanors to felonies.
Victim Offender Dialogue is transformative in that it promotes the healing process of victims, encourages the responsibility of offenders, includes family and community participation, and provides an opportunity for the victim and offender to have a highly effective and satisfying discussion. Many victims who participate in the program experience support, validation and the satisfaction of having a voice in the justice process by telling their story directly to the person who caused them harm. After a dialogue, victims are often able to go on with their lives with a new sense of empowerment and promise. By meeting face to face with the victims, offenders are given the opportunity to gain a fuller understanding of the impact of their actions, to develop more empathy, remorse and accountability, and to make things right. Through this process, offenders can develop competency and experience productive reintegration into community life – which has the added benefits of lowering recidivism and improving public safety and community building.
The Neighborhood Accountability Board (NAB) is very similar to VODP. It provides victims and offenders the opportunity to converse in a safe and productive manner with trained volunteers from local neighborhoods co-facilitating the meeting with the Program Director and a Probation Officer. The process focuses attention on what harm was done, how people’s lives have been affected, and what needs to be done to repair the harm.
CRC received part of a three year grant for a project called Recidivism Reduction Through Research-based Rehabilitation and Reentry (R5). For this innovative new program, our Restorative Justice Programs Director, Vicki Assegued, M.A. is collaborating with eight other nonprofit and governmental agencies to offer services that help lower the recidivism rates of high risk, young adults, ages 18-25, who have histories of criminal activity and numerous incarcerations. R5 is funded by the Department of Justice: Second Chance Act and offers reentry support to 30 clients per year.
Our R5 role at CRC is to offer Family Conferencing and Reentry Planning. The process begins at the jail with our Program Director and a Community Volunteer meeting with the client to introduce the program and discuss his family relationships and reentry goals. Family members are then contacted, introduced to the program and invited to participate in the Family Conference. At these meetings, families focus on the strengths of all members present, how family relationships have been affected by the client’s previous life choices and incarceration, and everyone’s hopes and goals for family reunification and for the client’s positive next steps in life.
The family then works together to develop a specific, written reentry plan to support the success of the client after release. The detailed and structured plan addresses such topics as the client’s ongoing education, housing, employment, substance treatment, aggression, leisure time, attitudes, behaviors, agreements for living together at home, and overall well-being. The R5 Program Director and Community Volunteer then meet with the client and family for numerous follow-up sessions to support ongoing success.
The R5 grant also includes CRC providing Victim Offender Dialogue between these same clients and the victims of their offenses. This is an expansion of VODP at CRC which, up until now, has only been offered for offenses committed by minors. We are excited to be offering this very successful and effective program to the adult population.
How you can help:
The Conflict Resolution Center works in collaboration with the Probation Department to offer these services throughout Santa Cruz County. Our Restorative Justice Programs continue to provide individual, family and community healing after crime occurs. Your contribution will allow us to carry on and expand our work in these areas. Hope and safety, in our homes and in our neighborhoods, can be restored through your generous support. Any donation is most welcome. You can click on this link to use our PayPal account. Checks made out to CRC can also be sent to:
Conflict Resolution Center
1414 Soquel Avenue #218
Santa Cruz, CA 95062
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