Communities Embracing Restorative Action (CERA) is a not for profit community service providing mediation and restorative justice opportunities to referred young offenders and the persons they have harmed. It is financially supported by a coalition of municipal governments and referrals are made by local police and youth courts. Trained volunteer mediators meet with participants to formulate an agreement focused on repairing the harm that has been done to individuals and the community through theft, vandalism and other anti-social behaviour. The organization also runs peer mediation and restorative action training activities in local schools in conjunction with local school districts.
Potential Outcomes for participants:
Young offenders who are referred by courts or police to take part in this program have a significantly lower chance of reoffending once they understand the impact of their actions on themselves, those they have harmed, their families, and the community. The party directly harmed feels listened to and has an opportunity to create a more positive relationship with the young offender and community justice agencies as a result.
In terms of the school program, participants form school “Peace Squads” who work with teachers and school administrators to mediate disputes among students. In schools embracing the program, its presence results in a stronger culture of peace in the school as a whole and promotes the values associate with building peaceful relationships within the school and the community.
Who can benefit from this tool?
Individuals who are referred and participate in restorative practices, students and teachers in schools where a “Peace Squad” initiative is implemented, the community at large as the values of peaceful conflict resolution practices are implemented.
What you’ll need:
-a group of people who are willing to form a non-profit organization promoting restorative justice practices focused on youth
-a Director trained in restorative justice who can recruit and train volunteer mediators who will work in pairs to conduct conferences
-enlistment of the financial support of municipal or city councils and the support of local police agencies and youth court personnel
-depends on the scope of an initial proposal and the creation of a realistic budget developed in the context of committed municipal or city support; in some cases other government grants may be available
Nuts and Bolts of the tool:
CERA is now in its twelfth year of operation. Its success is based on continuing financial support by the constituencies it serves. Constant relationship building with municipal governments, police, and youth courts is a basic factor. Any non-profit community justice organization must demonstrate positive results to the community.
CERA is administered by an elected Board of Directors that oversees the work of a Director who coordinates referrals and the assignment of volunteers to mediation cases, a Coordinator of the school Peace Squad training program, and an Office Administrator. The program rents office and meeting space from one of the cities supporting the program.
Volunteers are trained annually. Training is done in conjunction with neighboring youth justice organizations doing similar work in nearby communities. Once a case has been referred by police or the courts, volunteer mediators are assigned to contact participants, arrange for a conference, and follow up on the specifics of the agreement’s restorative actions or restitution that are worked out during the conference.
The CERA Society itself is made up of members of the community who meet annually to elect new members to the Board of Directors, hear reports of the activities of the last year, and monitor the implementation of the current strategic plan. The program also works with criminology and peace initiative centers at local colleges and universities.
Tool submitted by: Deacon Steve Bailey, past Board of Directors member and community advocate for CERA. CERA operates on behalf of the following municipalities and cities in the Greater Vancouver area of British Columbia, Canada: Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, New Westminster, Anmore and Belcarra and has its offices at 644 Poirier St., Coquitlam, BC Canada V3J 6B1. Website: www.fraserburrard.org.