Restorative Justice began in Vermont over 30 years ago with Restorative Panels. A Restorative Panel provides an opportunity for people who have offended to take responsibility for their actions and make amends. They do this with the help of trained community volunteers and staff.
Restorative Panels involve a panel of three volunteers and staff working with a participant to come up with a contract to repair harm, make amends, and learn better strategies not to re-offend. After reviewing the participants intake summary, volunteers engage in a discussion with the participant by asking open-ended restorative questions. The discussion should elicit information, as well as, offer the participant an opportunity to learn and ask questions. Panel members and the participant collectively discuss what happened and underlying motivations and together create a legal contract. In the process, the group considers the type of offense, circumstances involved, and the affected party, when applicable. The purpose of the contract is to hold the participant accountable to repairing the harm and making amends to affected parties where applicable and to the community.
The participants’ direct involvement in the process should be permitted to the fullest extent possible to take advantage of the learning opportunities and increase potential for personal growth from the restorative process. The restorative contract should be created with the participant and/or parent, affected party, and other stakeholders when appropriate. Practice has shown that positive change in human behavior occurs when those in authority do things with a person, rather than to or for them.
The Restorative Panel creates a contract with the participant. The contract is a legal document, which formalizes the participant’s requirements to repair the harm. The contract can include a wide range of action items such as; community service, apology letters, attending panels, classes or workshops, writing a paper, paying restitution. The purpose of the contract is to make sure the impact of the event is understood, make amends to people who need it, create a positive connection with the community, and reduce the likelihood of a repeat offense.
For more information contact Eric@fgirjc.org