An alternative to the courts praised for first-time offenders.

by Sarah McCarthy CKDR
Firefly is spreading awareness about Youth Justice Services available in Dryden.
Cindy Engstrom and Ashley Apland were guests at the
Rotary Club of Dryden’s virtual meeting Wednesday to talk about the Youth Justice Committee and the program.
Committee Chair Cindy Engstrom explains the program uses a restorative justice approach that stresses the accountability and responsibility of youth offenders, through meaningful consequences.
“Our goal is not to give out harsh punishment for bad behaviour, but rather to allow the offender to understand and reflect on what they’ve done and also propose how they're going to repair that harm in a safe, supportive environment.”
The program offers an alternative to the formal court process and is geared towards first-time youth offenders or youth, between the ages of 12-17, who’ve committed a minor offence.
Once youth are referred to the program by police, the crown attorney or another agency, conferences will take place between facilitators, the offender and victim (although the victim does not have to participate) to agree upon a consequence.
Engstrom talks about the success of the local program.
“The return rate is very low, I would say that 85 per cent of the kids who go through the program do very well and are not returning offenders.”
Some sanctions or ways the offender may repair the harm they’ve done include, but are not limited to, a verbal and written apology, community service hours, making a charitable donation or compensation for the victim.
Engstrom explains how the program is not just beneficial for the offender, but also the community itself.
“The give back is the community service hours, we’ve had kids working at the fire hall, Second Chance Pet Network, the Mission, we’ve had them reading stories to children. It’s all in a supervised environment.”
Engstrom adds there’s also the opportunity for the community to become involved with the program.
The committee is always looking for facilitators to be trained, who can then participate in conferences between offenders and victims during the restorative justice process.
Ontario 2019 Youth Justice Committee Stats 
  • $49,129 dollars in restitution payments made
  •     6,507  hours of community service completed
  •     2,830 dollars in charitable donations made
  •        371 victims participated in a conference with an offender