Remember the two young men recently arrested for a drunken graffiti spree that left Broadway’s Jimi Hendrix statue defaced in blue spray paint? What if instead of sending the alleged taggers through an expensive criminal justice process, they were given the option to sit down with those directly and indirectly affected to discuss what they did and come up with a mutual resolution?
That’s just one example of where a process called restorative justice could come into play, according to the director of Mayor Mike McGinn’s latest public safety initiative. The Restorative Justice Initiative pilot program is currently being rolled out in the East Precinct in an effort to keep low level offenders out of the criminal justice system and to foster better community relationships.
Andrea Brenneke, director of the Restorative Justice Initiative, will be presenting the new program Thursday at the East Precinct Council Advisory Council meeting at 6:30PM in Seattle University’s Chardin Hall, Room 142, at 1020 E Jefferson.
EastPAC president Stephanie Tschida tells CHS the organization agreed last month to be the test community group for the new initiative.
“It’s a good idea for some of these residents who deal with a log of ongoing drug dealing and loitering,” Tschida said. “It could be more constructive avenue to people voicing similar concerns over and over again.”
Brenneke said that it will likely target low level offenders, but could be expanded to more serious crimes or to conflict resolution more broadly throughout different communities. According to Brenneke similar programs have been successfully implemented in several cities in B.C.
The program will be designed throughout 2013 and is slated to be implemented in the East Precint in 2014. Participation in the program will be voluntary at first, but Brenneke said she plans to work with the city attorney’s office to make “restorative justice circles” become a formal alternative to pressing charges.
Brenneke recently presented the city’s initiative at a meeting in the Garfield Community Center. In a recent community post to CHS, EastPAC posted the following from Central District resident Jim Erickson his reasons for supporting the model after he attended the meeting.
In a recent conversation with my son we recalled stupid things that we each did as young adults. There is something about an immature mind inhabiting an adult body. I said that my worst fear was that he would be arrested and be locked up as a lone innocent among hardened criminals. For the first time, now that his son entered college in August, he understands my fears.