Debt to the community paid
Portage la Prairie Mayor, Irvine Ferris (left), and Superintendent of Public Works, Brian Taylor (right), are presented with a $1,200 cheque courtesy of the Portage Justice Committee. He was a presented a check from Co-chair of the Justice Committee, Lee-Anne Carmichael (second from left), Justice Committee member, Cathy Thomas-Lobreau (second from right), Monday at Portage City Hall. (Aaron Wilgosh/The Graphic)
The Portage Justice Committee has been helping offenders of the criminal justice system make amends to the ones they’ve wronged in the Portage la Prairie area since 1985.
That trend continued today as two members presented Portage Mayor Irvine Ferris with $1,200 on behalf of a recent individual looking to right a wrong.
“It’s a big success for the committee, the city, and the offender,” says Ferris. “This committee has worked with those folks and their decision-making process, and this (restitution) is very important not only for the offender but also the community at large.”
The incident in question can’t be openly discussed as to protect the individual, or individuals, involved but was a situation where some city property was damaged in the last few years. The Portage Justice Committee deals with youth, first time, and even multiple time offenders through Restorative Justice Manitoba. Getting sent to the committee depends on the conditions of one’s offence and determination from the prosecutors.
Instead of going through the court process, which is backlogged and delayed enough as it is, the offender will be get sent to the committee where a contract will be signed and restitution will be made.
“We had a situation that involved city property and we’ve collected the funds owed for damages and we’re giving it back to make the situation right,” says co-chair of the Justice Committee, Lee-Anne Carmichael. “If the crown sees a potential for someone to learn from their mistake rather than getting a criminal record and having problems finding employment, then the offender will be sent to us. We’re trying to repair the harm that’s been done.”
Sometimes it’s not possible for the individual to make amends financially and in those cases, community service may be applied to help work off the debt, and learn a sense of community.
“If someone isn’t financially able, we’ll look into other means of helping them make restitution,” says Justice Committee member, Cathy Thomas-Lobreau. "Community service is big because it helps get the individual involved in the community so they see what it’s really about. A lot of the time they’ll continue to volunteer or even get a job in some cases out of it.”
Thomas-Lobreau adds the folks they work with are very sorry for what they’ve done. They know they’ve made wrong choices and the individual wants to give back and repair the damage done. Offenders have also had to write essays and letters to the ones they’ve wronged as part of restitution.