The HPD gets restorative

Photo by Jon Styer/EMU

Photo by Jon Styer/EMU

Yesterday, the Harrisonburg Police Department hosted a press conference to unveil a new restorative justice program that can serve as an alternative to the retributive court system.

The program involves cooperation between the police, commonwealth’s attorney’s office and EMU (where the theory and practice of restorative justice has been pioneered for some time), JMU (where its being applied on an ambitious scale) and the Fairfield Center (where restorative justice services have been offered locally for nearly 20 years).

There’s more detail here in a story I wrote for EMU’s news blog, and a great overview from the HPD here.

In a nutshell, the HPD intends to train its officers to recognize cases that would be well suited to a restorative justice process (five officers have already received that training). Cases referred from the police would then be facilitated by staff from the Fairfield Center or JMU. One case has already gone through the system, involving someone who stole from his employer and could have been charged with a felony. Instead, he and his victim have agreed upon a restitution plan and the young offender has been paired with a mentor.

One model for the new program is a restorative justice program that involves a bunch of police departments in the Boston area. (As an interesting aside, this had been in the works since long before the jail population issue got the jail alternatives conversation, e.g., started locally.)

Things are starting small; facilitators will work on cases as volunteers and there’s no real program budget to speak of. HPD Lt. Kurt Boshart, who has been leading development of the program, said that figuring out funding “can be a good problem to have later” as the caseload hopefully grows. OSH wishes him and everyone else good luck on creating that good problem.

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One Comment

  1. graham nelson says:

    Wonderful News!

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