Community Justice Center

The South Burlington Community Justice Center (SB CJC) is a program of the City of South Burlington and the South Burlington Police Department. The SB CJC is funded by the VT Department of Corrections. The SB CJC is a member of the Community Justice Network of Vermont (www.cjnvt.org). The Center serves the South Burlington community by providing opportunities to address crime and conflict as a community, at the local level, through a restorative justice approach. The mission of the SB CJC is to create and enhance the sense of community in South Burlington by fostering relationships, honest dialogue, respect and healing. We strive to prevent and address crime and conflict in South Burlington by working with those involved through shared decision-making to make things right.

Restorative justice focuses on making amends and repairing relationships when harm occurs through collaborative decision-making involving the people affected. Relationships are rebuilt and the community is stronger when victims, affected parties, offenders, and community members have a role in addressing crimes and issues that affect our safety and well-being. Restorative justice accesses the wisdom of the people most impacted and often rebuilds trust when it is destroyed.

Currently more than 25 community volunteers are integral to the following South Burlington Community Justice Center programs:

Restorative Justice Panels: The SB CJC and community volunteers provide opportunities for offenders to take responsibility for their actions and repair the harm they caused when they have committed some types of criminal offenses. Victims of these crimes are welcome to be part of RJ Panels when they want to. Cases are referred by the South Burlington Police Department, the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Rapid Intervention Community Court, Superior and Family Court, and Chittenden County Probation and Parole. Cases can be either pre-charge or post-conviction. In 2007, research of RJ Panels in VT showed a reduction in the rate of recidivism by 23% in the initial years and by 12% over several years. Over 80% of offenders successfully complete their work with the SB RJ Panels.

The South Burlington Community Justice Center also supports the RJ Panel in Shelburne with cases referred by the Shelburne Police Department and others listed above. Shelburne cases are both pre-charge and post-conviction as well.

Victim Support: The SB CJC and community volunteers provide support to victims of criminal cases referred to the CJC. Victims have the opportunity to meet with those who committed the crime, talk about how the crime affected them, and request action from the offender to repair the harm that occurred.

Conflict Assistance: CJC staff is available to help community members, community organizations, local officials and schools, and the SB Police Department address community conflict and safety concerns before a crime is committed. Examples include neighborhood conflicts, landlord/tenant disputes, student conflicts, and more. Approaches vary to fit the circumstances.

Community Dialogue, Education and Crime Prevention: Through its partnerships with PACT (www.pactvt.com), the City Council, and other community organizations, the SB CJC develops educational programs and facilitates community dialogues focused on crime prevention and issues of concern to SB community members.

Offender Reentry: The SB CJC and community volunteers provide support and accountability to offenders who are returning to our community from jail via Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSAs). Research has shown that CoSAs can reduce recidivism of returning offenders as much as 75%. Other supports for returning offenders include connecting to needed resources and healthy reintegration back into our community.

Restorative Justice in Schools: When schools are interested in working with the SB CJC, we can provide training, facilitation for implementation planning, and technical assistance to help bring a restorative philosophy, perspective, and practices to a school's climate, culture, and operations. Restorative work in schools involves building a climate and culture in which relationships and community are valued and intentionally developed and sustained so things to go right, as well as repairing relationships and approaching situations as learning opportunities when harm occurs.

Safe Driving Program: The SB CJC offers this program in collaboration with the Essex Community Justice Center for people in Chittenden County who have been charged with impaired or distracted driving criminal offenses. The class is an opportunity for participants to reflect on their decision making, hear from people impacted by driving offenses, understand the impact of their actions, and create new plans for moving ahead in order to make our roads in Chittenden County safer.

writing inside VTThis program has existed for incarcerated women since January, 2010 and is now a program of the SB CJC. writing inside VT gives incarcerated women a safe and healthy means of expression in order to gain insights, skills, and support that will help them succeed on the outside. For more information, please see writinginsidevt.com.

The SB Community Justice Center is located above the SB Police Department at 19 Gregory Drive.

Lisa Bedinger, CJC Coordinator, can be reached at 846-4215 or lbedinger@southburlingtonpolice.org.