The Winthrop Police Department has a new tool at its disposal when it comes to offenders, victims and members of the community.
Winthrop signed on to the Restorative Justice program (C4RJ) last June and yesterday the state board came to Winthrop to hold its regular monthly meeting.
Under Massachusetts General Law, Restorative Justice is a voluntary process where offenders and victims can meet about the offense, take responsibility for their actions and support the offender as reparation to the victim or community where the harm occurred. Since C4RJ was formed in 2000, over 800 offenders in the Boston metropolitan area have gone through the process.
“The 21st century policing mandate came out of the Obama White House. One of the principles of 21st century policing is restorative justice, transparency of the police department,” said Police Chief Terence Delehanty, who learned about the program from Arlington Police Chief Fred Ryan, who is also a member of the Restorative Justice Board of Directors. There is also a retired judge, a police chief, community members. The first meeting for the board was held in Winthrop last night.
C4RJ has also been active in Arlington, Lincoln, Bedford, Wellesley, the mid-west part of the state.
“I felt this was an important item to bring to Winthrop,” Delehanty said.
He sees this as being used for some juvenile crimes. He acknowledges that juveniles who enter the system often return to it.
“How do we not introduce them to the system so we don’t make a juvenile who is doing something stupid and turning into a bigger criminal later in life,” Delehanty asked.
He gave an example of breaking a window at a school. Is the kid a criminal or does he have some underlying anger issues?
“Do we really want to charge the kid who is disorderly?” Delehanty asked. “Disturbing the peace? A fight with parents? Some crimes we have to have the district attorney involved and some we can run ourselves. There are a couple cases that have been referred out already. “One case was that girls were fighting in the park,” he said. “Having a process where we can sit and talk about the issue we can serve everyone better.”
The cost to go through this process is $250, much less than lawyer fees and court costs. Delehanty said the fee is on a sliding scale so it can be affordable for all.