In 2020, the Northampton Police Department, in partnership with the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office and C4RJ, implemented a Restorative Justice Program.
For specific cases, it is the policy of the Northampton Police Department to use a community-based Restorative Justice Program (RJP) as an alternative to traditional case-resolution through the court system. Diversion to a local RJP, will be considered for all applicable misdemeanor cases and some felony cases. When cases are referred and taken by members of the RJP, both the victim and offender must agree that the case may be diverted. If both agree, the case may be taken and mediated through a restorative justice circle.
Our local RJP mediators are community volunteers who have received specialized training to manage these cases. Traditional members of the criminal justice system, including the police, the district attorney’s office, and the courts, do not coordinate the restoration process.
Restorative justice is a way to bring a victim and offender together, to determine the best way to move forward after a crime, and often without ever going to court. Restorative justice views crime as more than breaking the law – it also causes harm to people, relationships, and the community. The goal of restorative justice is to repair the harm caused by criminal behavior. It is best accomplished through a cooperative process that invites all willing stakeholders to meet and discuss the impact of a crime and potential restoration options.
The “circle” process takes cues from indigenous approaches to wrongdoing. In many cultures, sitting in a circle is both functional and symbolic. Everyone can clearly see everyone else, and each person is valued and has an important role to play (there’s no “head of the table”). What takes place in the circle remains confidential so that participants can have an honest exchange about the harm. All volunteers sign a confidentiality agreement and each person who participates in a circle (as offender, victim, or supporter) is charged with confidentiality too.
M.G.L. Chapter 276B defines “restorative justice” as a voluntary process whereby offenders, victims and members of the community collectively identify and address harms, needs and obligations resulting from an offense, in order to understand the impact of that offense; provided, however, that an offender shall accept responsibility for their actions and the process shall support the offender as the offender makes reparation to the victim or to the community in which the harm occurred.
To learn more about the Northampton Police Department’s Restorative Justice Program, our policy (O-709) is available in the policies section of our website.