In traditional policing, an investigation leads to an arrest – either proactively by law enforcement or at the victim’s request.
Typically, the outcome is a plea bargain and a sense by the victim that justice has not been done. The process doesn’t look for why something happened but simply what did happen.
The Fairport Police Department recently announced an alternative if certain circumstances are met.
The department is working with Roberts Wesleyan College on a restorative justice initiative to “focus on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large,” according to Chief Samuel Farina.
The initiative is part of the village’s approach to Executive Order 203, the mandate from Gov. Andrew Cuomo that municipalities reimagine their public safety protocols. Farina said the initiative is a progressive approach that looks at the “true societal value of an arrest. … We wanted to promote a system that makes the victim whole, makes the community whole and make the offender whole.”
Farina said the model is one of accountability and responsibility on the part of the offender that allows for direct input from the victim.
Restorative justice is a philosophy of administering justice by addressing the needs of the victim, the offender, and the community, according to Kirby Trask, chairman of the Department of Criminal Justice & Homeland Security at Roberts Wesleyan.
Farina said the process focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community.
The restorative justice initiative is applicable to non-violent, first-time offenders, juveniles, misdemeanors and petty offenses. Offenses would have to generate an appearance ticket rather than be serious enough to result in bail.
For any offense to be referred to restorative justice, the victim must agree that the offender go through the program. The department has three active cases and three more awaiting victim approval.
Fairport Police have embedded a licensed mental health social worker to help coordinate the initiative and do an assessment. If the situation warrants restorative justice, an agreement will be drawn up to address conditions such as counseling, substance abuse, social needs, curfews and community service. The person will be monitored for at least six months.
Successful completion means the case will not go to court. The process uses a community-based advisory board made up of residents of Fairport and Perinton who offer support, resources and guidance.