Article Detail

Restorative Parole
A.F. (Andy) Grier, The John Howard Society of Manitoba, Inc.. Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Posted 1998-08-08

"RESTORATIVE PAROLE" is a project designed to address the restoring of faith and trust of victims of crime toward offenders who have committed crimes serious enough to warrant their placement in a secure custodial setting, to serve a sentence effectively removed from mainstream society. The project will develop a process for safely returning offenders to society, focussing on victim impact, community involvement, and offender accountability. The Aboriginal community is on line with the project, and endorse the healing and growth approach to reintegrating offenders into their home, or a new community setting.

THRUST OF PROJECT

A primary thrust is to ensure that victims are not 're-victimized' by being made to feel compelled to participate. At the same time while a restorative or rehabilitative process has been initiated for the offender in the prison setting, it is imperative that the victims are provided with an equal or greater opportunity to reestablish a sense of safety and personal confidence while that offender is removed from the community to which they expect to return. The earlier in the offender sentencing process that this can be initiated the greater the opportunity to affect a positive outcome for both parties.

It is important at the onset to define, or redefine, the terms 'restorative or rehabilitative' for this project purpose. The intent is not to return the person to their former state as an offender, as restore or rehabilitate would suggest, but rather to restore that loss of ability by the victim to feel safe and secure in the community, while at the same time providing new direction for the offender in coming to terms with the impact of their behaviour upon their victim(s).

While many offenders warrant or deserve a period of secure, closed custody for the protection of the community in general, those for whom the project is intended will ultimately return to live in mainstream society. In Canada they have a legal right to return to the community upon completion of the mandatory portion of the sentence as determined by current law. Sections 81 to 84 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act provide specifically for Aboriginal people to take ownership of their members, and to have them return to their home community after certain release issues are satisfied. Thus victims need to be reassured they will not be again victimized when that offender does return to live 'in the mainstream of society'.

Victims, will have the right to be made aware of the nature of spiritual and cultural counselling, treatment, professional intervention, educational upgrading, employment training and living skills opportunities that the offender has been afforded during their incarceration. More importantly the victim must feel free to be a part of the process that takes place prior to the offender being released from custody, without fear of retaliation by the offender.

ROLE OF AGENCY

The John Howard Society of Manitoba is committed to the well being and the personal welfare of victims of crime. At the same time we recognize that offenders, if expected to return to the community as law- abiding citizens, must be willing participants in a process designed to assist them in coming to ten-ns with not only the causative factors of their offending behaviour, but more importantly the negative impact their offence has had upon the victims. Aboriginal offenders will have the opportunity to address culturally appropriate concerns, and to heal and grow within themselves.

IMPACT ON VICTIM

Regardless of the impact of the offence, whether minimal or severe, every victim goes through a recovery process. The invasion of personal privacy, the emotional impact of the question 'Why meT, as well as the impact of property or financial loss are all significant to the victim. The duration of the recovery time may on the surface be relatively short, but historically the issues of safety, well being, and confidence in other persons linger indefinitely. Until a form of closure can be negotiated by caring individuals with the ability to act, the healing remains incomplete and the underlying emotional issues remain unresolved. The victim suffers not only from the impact of the crime against the person or property, but also a sense of personal guilt that has been implanted by the invasive aspect of the investigative and court processes.

EMPOWERMENT OF THE VICTIM

Empowerment of the victim is critical to a realistic and full recovery. Victimization results in loss of control of self, and one's place in society. Day to day thoughts and feelings are engulfed in turmoil over whether you will become a victim again once the offender is released from prison. With this comes a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness that is difficult, if not impossible, to overcome. The recovery process is further jeopardized and hindered. The victim must be assisted in regaining the sense of once again being in control of their destiny


RESTORATIVE PAROLE

FOCUS ON VICTIM

The victim, as the one directly offended against, should be the primary focus of concern in the risk assessment criteria for the offender release planning process. The emphasis of the pilot project is to initiate a process of restoration, reconciliation, restitution, and reparation between victim and offender prior to the offender being afforded a return to the community. A bringing together of the affected parties in a conciliatory manner is critical to the healing process for the victim. It is imperative that this process is commenced early in the offender's sentence. The ultimate aim is the restoring to the victim the faith and confidence that they will not be victimized by the release of the offender. As such, close liaison with the offender's case worker in the institution and in the community is critical to the project's success.

RELEASE PLANNING FOR OFFENDERS

Correctional Service of Canada, through Institutional caseworkers and community parole supervision staff, have a release planning process in place that is intended to meet the basic requirements of an offender preparing for return to the community. Two areas of deficiency are evident:

1. The lack of provision for victims to have a direct role in the pre-release planning;

2. Insufficient community staffing or resources to give attention to victim needs or concerns, both of which are critical to the previously mentioned healing process for the victims of crime.

Restorative Parole, then, is intended to address deficiencies of the release planning process in a manner that will enhance the comfort zone of the victim, while providing new insight and understanding for the offender. He or she will have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with each other to start down the road to reconciliation, restitution, rehabilitation and healing. The process will effectively and significantly reduce the offender's likelihood of reoffending in any manner. While emphasis is on the right of the victim to recompense for harm done, the project also recognizes that not all victims would be comfortable, or willing to become involved in a restorative process. This does not prevent the use of willing victims of a similar offence from becoming part of a restorative process for several offenders. Thus, those offenders whose victims are reluctant to be involved are not left out of the project concept and philosophy.

OFFENDER OBLIGATIONS AND NEEDS

In conjunction with the victim concerns, it is imperative that the offender been fully aware of the effect of their offence upon the victim, and the community at large. The restorative approach to conflict resolution, reparation, and available forms of restitution are critical to the process of mediation between the offender and the victims. The offender will be assisted in coming to terms with the impact of his offences and to develop an appreciation for the need to resolve the issues that led to his offending behaviour. This process is initiated in the custodial setting when an offender is willing to take an active role in doing so. An appreciation for the victim needs is seen as a value-added aspect of assuring the offender develops a desire to deal in a positive manner with the causative factors of his offending behaviour. Restorative Parole will allow this process to begin, and to be monitored in a way that respects and protects the interests of all parties involved.

STAKEHOLDERS IN RESTORATIVE PAROLE

The victim, the community, the policing agencies, the courts, the custodial institutions, the case management, and the release decision makers all stand to benefit from the process.

The victims are afforded an opportunity to accept or reject the right to take an active role in the planning of the offender's ultimate return to the community. A sense of personal restoration in coming to terms with being victimized is realized, as they are no longer a 'lost entity' in the process.

As with the Aboriginal community, all people are called upon to add support, guidance and direction instead of standing in judgement of the victims, or feeling shame. for allowing their people to be victimized. They are made aware of why the offender committed the crime, and his/her efforts to address and deal with the reasons why they 'victimized' other persons.

The policing agencies are given renewed confidence that those offenders who came to their attention, were arrested and processed through the system are in fact dealing productively with their behaviour. The likelihood of their again being cause for police intervention is being reduced through positive measures. Community Parole Supervision Officers will have a more cooperative, willing and motivated clientele to supervise, who have a greater total support network to assist them. and are less likely to experience community opposition about the very job they are trained to do.

Restorative Parole is important to all stakeholders; in developing greater awareness, involving victims and the community in the reduction of crime, and by increasing public safety. Thus we are all stakeholders in the 'restorative justice' approach to community safety.

A.F. (Andy) Grier
Director - Restorative Parole
The John Howard Society of Manitoba
583 Ellice Avenue
Winnipeg, MB R3B 1Z7
Telephone (204) 775-1514
Fax (204) 775-1670

(An initiative funded by the Correctional Service of Canada and The Dept. of The Solicitor General, Corporate Services Branch)