Restorative justice is a community-based approach to addressing crime that focuses on repairing harm and relationships, restoring balance and reintegrating victims and offenders back into the community. This is achieved by actualizing restorative principles such as: working towards the restitution of victims, empowering them and responding to their needs as they see them; supporting offenders, while encouraging them to understand, accept and carry out their obligations; recognizing that obligations should not be intended as harms, and must be achievable; providing opportunities for dialogue between victim and offender as appropriate; finding meaningful ways to involve the community; and encouraging collaboration and reintegration rather than coercion and isolation.
What would happen if these principals and foundations were used in addressing the harms that have resulted for addiction? When in active addiction, a person can inflict devastating harm on their families and within their communities. When in recovery, how can the “offender” repair these harms in a meaningful way? Can Circles, a restorative process, be used for “making amends?” If so, what would that look like? Can the worlds of recovery and restorative justice come together to create a new avenue to repair harm in the aftermath of addiction?
Gillian Lindquist is the Coordinator for the Victoria Restorative Justice Society (VRJS). VRJS provides restorative justice processes within the city of Victoria and receives 80 – 100 referrals a year from VicPD, Victoria Crown Counsel, ICBC, victims and schools. VRJS is one of the few restorative justice program in BC that is doing serious crime work. Gillian’s passion is exploring how the principals of restorative justice can be used in other environments, such as workplaces, schools and in the field of recovery.
Michael Walsh is the Executive Director of LifeRing Canada, a peer-support addiction recovery group based on three principles: sobriety, secularity, and self-help. Through Michael’s own recovery of 9+ years, it was important to repair relationships along the way – a process of which he is still engaged. Michael states, “There is a lot of shame and guilt around addiction, and confronting those I have harmed has not been easy. It took me five years to contact my sister.” Had something like a restorative circle been in place, Michael would have acted sooner. Michael believes that repairing relationships and rebuilding trust is an integral part of recovery. He hopes to some day provide restorative processes to assist others.