Every year in the Hamilton-Wentworth and Halton regions, thousands of our neighbours commit offences and are eventually sentenced to jail. Most residents of our region seldom question whether there might be a better way to deal with offences and offenders. This is surprising, given the devastating impact of incarceration on the individuals jailed, and the sheer cost to society: $79,000 to $110,000 or more per inmate per year in direct costs, as well as hefty indirect costs due to the impact of incarceration on families and the erosion of offenders’ ability to obtain gainful employment after their release.
Our community will soon have an opportunity to learn about an alternative approach. On April 1, The Bridge from Prison to Community is hosting an all-day conference on restorative justice.
It will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Christ’s Church Cathedral, 252 James Street North. Tickets are available on-line at: https://hamilton.snapd.com/#/events/view/1022502
The conference promises to be fascinating, given the cross-section of voice that will be heard. The current speaker line-up includes the following:
- Ex-offenders trying to reintegrate in Hamilton’s North end
- Matthew Torigian, Ontario Deputy Minister for Community Safety and Corrections
- David Christopherson, MP (Hamilton Centre), former NDP critic for Correctional Services (Canada) and former Ontario Minister for Correctional Services
- Victims and ex-offenders who have been directly involved in restorative justice processes
- Louise Leonardi, Executive Director, Canadian Families and Corrections Network (CFCN)
- Chris Cowie, Executive Director, Waterloo’s Community Justice Initiatives (CJI)—known world-wide for initiating the first modern Restorative Justice program
The morning will be dedicated to examining the current situation and identifying current barriers to the implementation of restorative justice practices more widely in the Hamilton-Burlington area. The afternoon will focus on the solutions—successful models of restorative justice services, “lessons learned” and identification of steps needed to shift toward a restorative justice approach in Hamilton and Burlington.
If you’re interested in making Hamilton and Burlington more compassionate and safer communities, set April 1 aside for this conference.
n.b. The conference organizing committee has agreed upon the following: “Restorative Justice is a system of criminal justice that focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large.” We respect and applaud efforts to use restorative justice approaches to address other grave societal problems, but those applications of restorative justice are beyond the scope of this conference.