Talking restorative justice in Washington, D.C.

“We need to get you back here for a briefing! People in Congress need to hear what you’re doing," writes Ed Nyce in this story from Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).

The speaker was Carol Chodroff, a lawyer who works for the Committee on the Judiciary of the U.S. House of Representatives. She was addressing a delegation of MCC staff from Reedley, Calif., the mayor of Reedley and her spouse, and two members of the Reedley Police Department.

In 2008, the Reedley Police Department asked West Coast MCC, which has a reputation as a “safe place” in the community, to work with them during a time of heightened violence in the city. Officials wanted to break the cycle of violence and to enhance support for its victims, who often found it difficult to access needed services.

In July 2009, West Coast MCC and the police established a Victim Service Unit at the MCC Reedley office. Two police community service officers are located there. The unit deals with immediate support issues for victims and crisis intervention and assists with restraining orders and more.

More recently, the Reedly police department instituted a Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP). VORP facilitators help both victims and offenders who choose this model to talk about what happened in a crime, how life has changed since then and how to put things as right as possible. In addition to making restitution, when possible, the offender will perform some form of community service.