Below is a public letter of apology submitted as one of the outcomes of a recent resolution conference held at the Community Justice Centre.
As we make our way through life we are bound to make mistakes that we will come to regret. Maybe you let down a family member in some way, broke someone’s trust, or took advantage of a situation in a way you shouldn’t have. Sometimes all these conditions are true when someone makes the mistake of breaking the law, even if it was a singular impulsive incident borne of a lapse in judgment.
When this is the case, the perpetrator can be faced with a challenged identity. A potential permanent black stain on their record to follow them, a sense of displacement from their community, they could in essence view themselves as an outsider-criminal. These feelings are not entirely unfounded, as even minor crimes singular in nature can be dealt with severely via the police through the punitive court process.
Depending on the context, this system is flawed because the community and victims suffer from the crime committed; the court systems are already flooded and even the perpetrator is not given the chance to atone for their actions in a way that benefits the victim or their own state of mind.
Luckily, B.C. is a leader in our country for offering an alternative system called restorative justice, which addresses all these concerns. If certain criteria are met, most significantly being that the offender is truly remorseful for their actions and desires to accept responsibility to make amends, the case can be removed from the court system and is instead placed in the hands of the community.
The victim and offender meet along with an arbitrator and community representatives. The offender is given the chance to take responsibility for their actions without fear of legal repercussion. The primary goal of the restorative justice system is to repair the harm done by the offence, rather than to simply punish. After accepting responsibility, and through discussion of the events with the victims and the community representatives, the offender has a chance to formally face their crime, the victim and themselves. Following this, if their remorse is real, the group works together to come up with a plan to make amends; whether it be letters of apology, community service, or any other solution that benefits the community and fixes the imbalance caused by the crime.
I myself committed a crime in the community; I took advantage of what seemed like an easy situation in order to steal an entirely non-essential superfluous item from a department store. While I was immediately able to acknowledge what I had done was wrong, it was not immediately clear to me who the victim was other than a faceless corporate entity. The restorative justice solution that I was lucky enough to have offered to me allowed me to see the faces that I affected. It allowed me to realize that the consequences of my actions fell not only on myself, but on my friends, my family, the workers of the store, and more are all affected. Aside from serious economic impacts, I infringed upon the safe space of a work environment by breaking the community’s trust while shamefully disappointing the view my friends and family might have of me. I came to feel true remorse and shame for my actions but was given an opportunity to right my wrong.
I offer a sincere apology to those I affected, and a genuine thanks to the people at the Courtenay community justice centre, which is entirely volunteer run. They are running a terrifically beneficial program for the Comox Valley, and their proven rehabilitation success rate is testament to that.
Community Justice Centre