Justice-Based Programming in the Estes Valley – Estes Park Trail-Gazette

Estes Valley Restorative Justice Partnership (EVRJP) provides proactive and reactive restorative justice processes that enhance cooperation, foster understanding, and strengthen relationships. One way to do this is through justice-focused programs.

In 2002, a unique alliance was formed between the community of Estes Valley and the Estes Park Police Department. The vision of this partnership was to invite the community to join the Estes Park Police Department in providing restorative justice services in the Estes Valley.

At that time, the community was dealing with unique challenges related to juvenile delinquency. Between 1994 and 2002, there was an increase in juvenile incidents in the Riverside Plaza area. Reports of graffiti, damage to parked vehicles, harassment of visitors and shopkeepers, and vandalism of local businesses prompted public outcry for the police intervention. The Estes Park Police Department has launched a series of strategies to address the issue. The tactic has resulted in increased arrests and strict enforcement of local ordinances. The strategy has resulted in a substantial reduction in crime and disorderly activity as well as a drastic increase in the arrests of minors.

While effective in reducing crime and disorderly behavior, the tactic has led to increased tension between law enforcement agencies, youth, families and the community. Recognizing that the level of crime and polarization within the community could not continue, the Estes Park Police Department and other youth advocates in the community realized that an alternative solution had to be sought. Restorative justice was that solution.

In January 2002, the Estes Park Police Department worked with community partners to organize a workshop that brought together businesses, youth, adults and local government stakeholders to discuss needs and identify solutions. From this workshop, a subcommittee — the Estes Valley Restorative Justice Working Group — was formed. The group, which became EVRJP, adopted the community group conferencing model to explore and address the impacts of crime and wrongdoing in the Estes Valley.

Community Group Conference is EVRJP’s flagship program that brings together injured parties, responsible parties and the community in the aftermath of a crime or wrongdoing – to understand the real impacts the crime or violation has on people and the community. Through a structured process facilitated by trained staff and volunteers, participants have the opportunity to talk about their experience. They identify harms and work collectively to identify ways in which the responsible person can work to repair those harms. To be considered, responsible parties must be willing to take responsibility, make meaningful repairs, and commit to not causing similar harm in the future. The process – which is voluntary for all participants – and the resulting agreement emphasizes respect, relationship, responsibility, redress and reintegration.

While the EVRJP was initially formed as an alternative to tackle juvenile delinquency, in 2007 the community group conferencing model opened up to adults as well. A formal memorandum of understanding between the police department and the district attorney’s office has been passed to allow officers to refer cases directly to the EVRJP as an alternative to the court system.

Since its inception twenty years ago, the Community Group Conference program has grown to meet the needs of the community. EVRJP is currently partnering with and accepting referrals from the Estes Park Police Department, Larimer County Sheriff’s Office, Estes Valley Fire Protection District, Estes Park City Court and Office of the Larimer County District Attorney. Referrals can be made directly in lieu of criminal charges or as part of diversion, deferred sentencing, or trial.

In addition to the aforementioned programming, in 2006 EVRJP began offering Community Reintegration Circles to assist those re-entering the community after incarceration. Through support and empowerment, a circle of community members serve as spokespersons to connect a previously incarcerated person, with tools and resources that enable them to better manage their parole and contribute positively to the community. Referrals can be made by parole officers or by self-referral. If an assessment determines that the program is appropriate, participation in the circle becomes part of their parole plan. To learn more about EVRJP’s community circles and justice-based processes, visit www.estes.org/restorative-justice-programs.

EVRJP relies on community support to deliver services and programs. Help grow and sustain restorative justice in the Estes Valley by attending the 2022 Better To-Go Fundraising Dinner on November 30. Enjoy great takeout food from Mama Rose’s restaurant in support of EVRJP. Thanks to the generous donation of the meal by Julie and Rob Pieper, owners of Poppy’s and Mama Rose’s, all proceeds will benefit EVRJP and support restorative programming in the Estes Valley. EVRJP is recognized as tax-exempt as a 501(c)(3). Donations are tax deductible.

Place your order for the 2022 Better To-Go Fundraiser Dinner by 11/25 (the day after Thanksgiving) at www.tinyurl.com/BetterToGo. To learn more about the Estes Valley Restorative Justice Partnership, visit www.estes.org/restorativejustice.

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