Restorative Group Conferencing (RGC)
What is Restorative Group Conferencing?
A restorative group conference is a face-to-face encounter between a victim or victims, the offender(s), individuals who support them, and other who have been affected by the incident.
The conference is led by a trained facilitator, this encounter seeks to identify, repair and prevent harm, based on restorative justice values including meaningful accountability.
Participation by the victim is completely voluntary, and participation by the offender is based upon their willingness and readiness to make amends.
Restorative group conference is incident-based, initiated by a response to a crime or dispute, and behavior-based, making a clear distinction between the harmful act and the actor.
Conferences focus on empowering the participant, to look for any underlying issues and to cause an outcome where healing can be done. All decisions are made by the group, and are consensus-based. The Facilitator is responsible to maintain a safe environment for all parties to express what they need to say. Ultimately the facilitator has no say in what restitution is made, however can give guidance as to what may be a suitable for making amends to the victims and those who were affected by the incident
Typical Steps in the Process
- Contact the referring agency if necessary
- Initial contact with each offender to assess their willingness and appropriateness to participate and to give them the information they will need to decide if they want to participate (Usually a two-step process; phone call and a face to face visit).
- Initial contact with each victim to determine their willingness to participate and to give them information in which to decide about participating. (Usually a two-step process; phone call and face to face visit with victim and their support person)
- Identification, recruitment and preparation of other supporters for each of the primary participants.
- Identification, recruitment and preparation of others who have a stake in the incident
- Conducting the conference itself, including potentially helping participants to come to agreement if appropriate. Restitution.
- Appropriate follow up. (For some, this will involve monitoring the progress toward completion of agreement aka. Restitution. For other completing documentation. For still others, reporting to the court or another legal entity.)
- Case Closing- A report is made to referral source of completion or failure to complete the process
Steps in Conference
- Preamble: facilitator intro and role, intro of participants, purpose, agenda, ground rules (This sets the tone for the conference)
- Participants Stories: Victim or Offender (Victim’s Choice), the other one, victim’s supporters, and offender’s supporters, and again open discussion until done.
- Repairing Harm: Agreement discussion and consensus decision making on what restitution will be
- Closing the Conference- Contract is Signed
- Follow Through with Agreement is needed to close the case successfully.
What are the advantages?
Cost Effectiveness: Projects using volunteers often cost less than court processes
Victim Involvement: Victims have an opportunity to participate fully in the process, which means that they may express their feelings respectfully, get answers to their questions, and have a say in how they and their community will be compensated (restitution).
Timely: Depending upon time from offense to referral, cases can often be processed quicker than the court processes.
Reduced Recidivism: Programs find that youth are less likely to re-offend or if they do, likely to participate in less serious offense.
Improved Accountability: The offender is expected to face those they harmed and take responsibility for their actions. Failure to complete the agreement will result in case being returned to the referring agency.
Improved Completion Rate: Most programs report that offenders are far more likely to pay restitution to the victim and make reparations to their community
Community Involvement: By participating community members have an opportunity to reinforce community norms, set expectations for behavior, and assist in healing of their community.
Lakes Area Restorative Justice Project 424 3rd Street NW Brainerd, MN 56401