Restorative Group Conferencing (RGC)

What is Restorative Group Conferencing?
A restorative group conference is a face-to-face encounter between someone who has been harmed, the youth that has caused harm, individuals who support them, and members of the community who have been affected by the incident.

The conference is led by a facilitator. This encounter seeks to identify, repair and prevent harm, based on restorative justice values including meaningful accountability.

Participation by the impacted party is completely voluntary, and participation by the person who caused harm is based upon their willingness and readiness to make amends.

Restorative group conference is incident-based, initiated by a response to a crime or dispute, and behavior-based, making a clear distinction between the harmful act and the actor.

Conferences focus on empowering the participant, identifying any underlying issues and making space for a resolution in which where healing can take place. All decisions are made by the group, and are consensus-based. The facilitator is responsible for maintaining a safe environment for all parties to express what they need to say. Ultimately the facilitator has no say in what restitution is made, however can give guidance as to what may be a suitable for making amends to the impacted party and those who were affected by the incident

Here are the typical steps involved in the process:

  • Contact the referring agency, if necessary. 
  • Initial Contact with Participant: 
    • Evaluate the willingness of each participant. 
    • Participants receive information to help them decide whether they want to proceed with the program. 
  • Initial Contact with Impacted Party: 
    • Determine their willingness to participate. 
    • They receive relevant information to make an informed decision. 
  • Supporter Identification and Recruitment: 
    • Identifies and prepares supporters. 
    • These supporters play a crucial role in the restorative process. 
  • Involving Community Partners: 
    • Beyond participants and impacted parties, LARJP identifies and recruits others who have a stake in the incident. 
    • Their perspectives contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the situation. 
  • Conducting the Restorative Conference: 
    • The actual conference takes place, facilitated by LARJP. 
    • Participants engage in dialogue, aiming for understanding and resolution. 
    • If appropriate, LARJP helps participants reach agreements, including restitution. 
  • Appropriate Follow-Up: 
    • Different cases require varying follow-up actions: 
        • Monitoring progress toward completing agreements (restitution) for some cases. 
        • Document completion for others. 
        • Reporting to the court or another legal entity as needed. 
  • Case Closing: 
    • LARJP provides a report to the referral source, indicating either successful completion or failure to complete the process. 

The collaborative efforts of all involved parties contribute to healing, accountability, and community well-being. 

Steps in the Conference

  • Preamble: This introduction to the people and process sets the tone for the entire conference. Facilitators will begin by introducing themselves and their role, after which the participants can introduce themselves. Then, the facilitators will proceed with a brief explanation of the purpose, agenda, and ground rules for the rest of the conference. 

  • Participants Stories: The impacted party chooses whether they would like to speak or listen first, determining the order of the speakers. Based on this decision, the impacted party and the youth who caused the harm will share their stories in turn, followed by their respective supporters. Once each party has shared, the conference transitions into a period of open discussion. 

  • Repairing Harm: During this facilitated conversation, they collaboratively determine how to repair the harm caused by the offense. The focus is on finding meaningful solutions that address the needs of all involved and contribute to healing and restoration. 

  • Closing the Conference: All parties will sign the agreed upon contract. 

  • Contract Completion: Agreement follow-through is needed to close the case successfully. Deadline extensions might be granted on a case-by-case basis. 

  • Case Closed: Having seized the opportunity for a second chance, the youth may proceed through their life without the harmful labels, stigmas, and stereotypes that might otherwise have been permanently attached

What Are the Advantages?

Cost Effective: Projects centered around volunteers often cost less than court processes

Harmed Party Involvement: Those who have been harmed in the incident have an opportunity to participate fully in the process, which means that they may express their feelings respectfully, get answers to their questions, and have a say in how they and their community will be compensated (restitution). 

Timely: Depending upon the time from offense to referral, cases are often processed quicker than they would be in the court system. 

Improved Accountability: The offender is expected to face those they harmed and take responsibility for their actions. Failure to complete the agreement will result in the case being returned to the referring agency.

Improved Completion Rate: Most restorative justice programs report that offenders are far more likely to pay restitution to the victim and make reparations to their community than had they gone through the traditional legal system. 

Community Involvement: By participating community members have an opportunity to reinforce community norms, set expectations for behavior, and assist in healing their community.

Reduced Recidivism: Studies find that youth who go through restorative justice programs are significantly less likely to re-offend, or if they do, likely to participate in a less serious offense.