Restorative justice risks now too high

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by Chris Tobin

High levels of drugs and alcohol being encountered and staff safety concerns are among reasons the Timaru District Council is opting out of restorative justice services in South Canterbury.

The council has decided not to tender for delivery of the services for the next term.

“With a high level of drugs and alcohol involved, it is becoming an increasingly dangerous environment for staff and participants,” safer communities/project turnaround co-ordinator Di Cleverley said in a report to a meeting of the council’s safer communities committee.

“We have addressed as much of the known health and safety risk on site with security measures and safety policies.

“With the increase in safety risks, more conferences are not progressing as staff assess the risk as too high.”

In 1996, Timaru became the only place in the South Island to receive government funding to support the service.

The Ministry of Justice funded the service for conferences conducted by way of contract.

“In the beginning, the process dealt with graffiti incidents, damage to property and low level disputes,” Mrs Cleverley said.

“The service today deals increasingly with family violence, often against women and children, and wrongful death.

“Prison visits which require more than one staff member in attendance have increased as have the number of court days.”

She said two key staff had recently resigned as had the restorative justice facilitator, all of whom delivered the conferences.

Early discussions had been held with the Ministry of Justice and other possible providers of restorative services.

“These are still confidential at this stage due to commercial sensitivity and the upcoming tender process.”

Restorative justice focused on redressing the harm done to victims while holding offenders to account and engaging the community in the resolution of conflict.

This was done mainly by a meeting between the victim and the offender, each of whom agreed to attend a restorative justice conference.