Community Conferencing is a facilitated group dialogue that personally addresses harm done. It takes place before court sentencing and brings together the young person(s) who have offended, their victim(s), family members and community supporters.
The conference structure is simple:
- Offenders talk about what happened, what they were thinking and who was affected.
- Victim(s) and supporters have a chance to describe the incident and how they have been affected.
- The offenders’ family and supporters talk about how this has impacted them.
- After everyone has been heard, the offender spends time coming up with a “Restorative Action Plan” of how (s)he can take responsibility and move forward from the situation.
This restorative justice process creates opportunities for learning and change. Offenders learn first hand how their actions have impacted victims and victims are given the opportunity to address their concerns directly with the young person. In the end, offenders have the opportunity to take responsibility for their crimes and the harm they have caused with communities and victims taking an active role in allowing this to happen.
It is a huge, huge piece of the accountability portion of sentencing. If members of the public could see what happens at a conference, they would see that it doesn’t matter what a judge does, because at the end of the day, [the young offenders] have made their peace.
– Youth Defense Lawyer