Restorative Justice Panels

Restorative Justice Panels are made up of teams of 3-5 volunteers who meet with offenders and victims of crimes to address the harm cause by low-level crimes in the community.  The Panel's mission is to hold an offender accountable for the effects of their actions on others. They discuss the circumstances and impact of the crime and ways the offender can avoid making similar mistakes in the future.

Currently, cases are referred to the Restorative Justice Panels in three different ways:

  • Alternative Justice referrals come directly from the Burlington Police Department.  The panel process takes the place of the traditional criminal court process (prosecution, conviction, etc...).  Often Youth Panel cases fall into this category.
  • Reparative Probation referrals come from the criminal court as part of a sentencing order signed by a judge. Offenders are jointly supervised by the Department of Corrections Court and the Reparative Service Unit.
  • Rapid Arraignment Community Court (RICC) referrals come from the State's Attorney's office.  Upon completion of the Restorative Panel process (including paying restitution owed to victims) and successfully fulfilling other requirements such as substance abuse treatment, counseling, and/or restitution paid to victims, an offender can avoid having a charge on their permanent record.  Learn more about the RICC program here.

A way for victims to be involved
An attempt is made to contact victims in every case.  A victim liaison volunteer explains the process and supports the victim's participation to whatever extent they are comfortable.  Some victims chose to attend the offender's meeting while others choose not to go and ask the liaison to speak on their behalf.  The meeting is an opportunity for the victim's experience to be shared, and to ask questions of an offender. The liaison keeps the victim informed of progress throughout the case. 

The process
The Panel, the Victim and the Offender decide together how the Offender will make amends and repair the harm they caused. The reparations should be related to the crime and improve the community.  Many people write letters of apology, do community service, repair damaged property or pay for damages they caused.  Other times people do something they are good at or like to do.  For example: a musician held a fundraiser for a non-profit daycare center, another woman made potpourri vases for a local senior citizens center and a computer programmer helped the Community Justice Center improve its database.

Once the group has agreed on the reparations to be made, a Restorative Justice Agreement is filled out and signed by all.  The offender has 45 days to complete his or her commitments.  The full group comes back together a few more times to review progress, solve any problems and celebrate successful completion.

A note about numbers and volunteering
The Burlington Community Justice Center sees an average of 300 cases a year. The Burlington Community Justice Center currently has four Panels that meet with adult offenders and one Panel that meets with youth offenders each week. Panel Members are volunteers who make a two-hour weekly commitment for at least a year.  They receive training and support from the Department of Corrections and the Community Justice Center.  People of all ages and backgrounds are encouraged to join these caring, dedicated teams.

Kinds of crimes addressed by restorative panels  

  • driving under the influence
  • simple assault
  • forgery or writing bad checks
  • possession of marijuana
  • fraud
  • underage drinking
  • furnishing alcohol to minors
  • negligent operation of a vehicle
  • impersonating a police officer
  • petty larceny
  • shop lifting (retail theft)
  • unlawful mischief
  • disorderly conduct
  • vandalism (graffiti)
  • resisting arrest

For more information about participating in the program or volunteering, contact Jocelyn Dubuque at (802) 865-7589 or jdubuque@burlingtonvt.gov

 

 
- Departments of the City of Burlington -