Touchstone Family Association is convinced of the benefits of its restorative justice program and wants to show Richmond residents why.
With Restorative Justice Week coming up Nov. 18 to 25, the association is hosting an interactive forum on the Richmond program that brings offenders and victims together to decide on a consequence both parties agree on.
The purpose of the Nov. 21 forum is to help illustrate the experiences of those involved in conflict; be it fraud, theft or assault, said Haroon Bajwa, coordinator of Richmond restorative justice program.
Attendees will participate in a fictional role play – which will be run like any other restorative justice program – and take up the roles of offenders, their supporters, victims and other parties secondarily affected.
While victims can explain to the offenders face-to-face the impact of the incident, offenders have the chance to take responsibility and participate in a solution that repairs some of the harm done.
As part of the role play, “a discussion will be held in which all parties involved can share their perspectives on the incident that took place, which will hopefully lead to a better understanding of why it happened and how to prevent it in the future,” he stated.
As they put themselves in the shoes of those affected by conflict, participants get to experience the benefits of the program first-hand, according to Bajwa.
He hopes the public forum will clarify the role of the restorative justice program within the community, turning attendees into advocates of the approach.
He said he has recognized a change in the response of community members.
“It’s most apparent when people are directly impacted. They are skeptical at first, but you see them move away from negative impressions to positive feelings towards one another.”
Thanks to the program, “the rate of recidivism has reduced among first-time offenders, and all parties involved get closure quicker than through the court system, which takes much longer,” said Bajwa.
The interactive forum takes place Wednesday, Nov. 21 from 6 p.m. till 8 p.m. at suite 101, 6411 Buswell St. Registration is required via phone: 604-279-5599 or via email: email@example.com. As space is limited, people must RSVP by Nov. 14.