AURORA, Colo. – The City of Aurora is asking community members to participate in a restorative justice survey to help create a program that will focus on rehabilitation and reconciliation for offenders and victims.
“A big part of our approach has been a lot of information gathering and perspective. So, we started with interviews of many key stakeholders as well as individuals in the community,” explained Beth Yohe, executive director of the Conflict Center, the nonprofit that will help create the program.
The Conflict Center has partnered with other agencies to create restorative justice programs across the Front Range.
“The Conflict Center actually has a partnership with the Denver District Attorney's Office, so we have that experience to bring to it,” Yohe said. “Many people know (restorative justice) as an alternative to the criminal legal system, right? So it's an alternative to our punitive system. That off-ramps people out of the criminal legal system and gives an opportunity to truly repair harm and take accountability.”
Yohe said most restorative justice programs involve offenders having in-depth conversations with victims of their crime.
“The offender really has to take responsibility and take accountability and engage in repairing harm, which we know in the traditional legal system is often a fine or prison time, but doesn't really repair the harm that happened from the incident,” Yohe said.
Jason McBride, Struggle of Love Foundation secondary violence prevention specialist was a victim of a crime a few years ago and helped launch Denver’s restorative justice program.
“I did go through the Restorative Denver Program with a young man who, you know, made a mistake. And we won't get too far into what happened, but we went through the program, and we were able to meet, talk. And he's doing well now,” McBride said.
McBride said the person who committed the crime against him took accountability for his actions, and in some cases, victims can help decide what an offender's punishment should be.
“As we know, this system is not necessarily designed for everyone, right. So we need to have different alternatives to punishment,” McBride said.
The survey will run through Nov. 30.
Yohe said after gathering community feedback and conducting other forms of research, the Conflict Center will present an implementation plan to city leaders in June 2023.