Jackie, is a 57 year old disabled woman, who was arrested for shoplifting at a grocery store. She was caught leaving the store with 2 packages of meat underneath her in her wheelchair.
A Neighborhood or Community Accountability Board is a restorative justice process involving the victim, offender and the local community in an effort to make as right as possible harm that has occurred. The process is managed and facilitated by a conflict resolution specialist from the Community Mediation Center (CMC). CMC receives referrals of first time offenders for low level crimes from the East Zone Prosecutor’s office. A group of 3 or 4 trained community members, along with the offender, decide conditions for restitution, without involving the court system.
At the Tuesday evening Accountability Board, which included Jackie’s case worker, board members heard her story. Jackie lives alone in an apartment and struggles to make ends meet. Each month she is allotted $50 in food stamps which does not cover the cost of even one meal a day. She resorted to stealing because she was hungry. It became apparent that Jackie felt helpless to solve the problem any other way. A board member then asked Jackie to listen to how shoplifting affected the community. Prices for goods are higher in stores with high shoplifting rates. The cost of security also increases prices for food and other goods in areas that serve low income households.
The outcome of the meeting stated that Jackie would pay back the $20 for the stolen food and make monthly payments from her disability check to cover the $150 fee that the store charges for every security incident. A board member suggested that Jackie contact Meals on Wheels to apply for assistance. She agreed and it was written into the agreement which was then signed by everyone in attendance. The report was forwarded to the prosecutor and Jackie’s charges will be dropped pending completion of her restitution.
Jackie called the CMC office a week later, very grateful for the opportunity to make restitution for what she had done and excited that she was to begin receiving meals daily. CMC helps people solve problems that involve basic needs, and involves the community in supporting those with very few options.
Funding sources for Community Boards, Conflict Resolution, Restorative Justice and Violence Prevention include United Way of Greater Kansas City, the Greater Kansas City Health Care Foundation, Jackson County COMBAT, Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office and Private Donations. Welcome to the Peace Party! You can join. Go to our website to contribute, sign up for training or to volunteer. www.mediationkc.org
Last Saturday Community Mediation Center (CMC) Facilitators Annette Lantz-Simmons and Gregory Winship helped Kansas City, Missouri (KCMO) Community, City and State leaders have a thoughtful discussion about the future of the KCMO School District. Few subjects engender more passion than the education and well-being of our children.
Mayor Sly James purposefully pulled together participants with diverse opinions and had the foresight to enlist neutral facilitation from CMC. A morning of information gathering, clarification and more clarification led to an afternoon focused on the needs of the children in the district. At the end of a full day, participants offered several shared recommendations to DESE, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, as they move toward presenting a consolidated plan for further discussion.
What made the biggest impression on me throughout the day was the committed, tenacious and respectful manner in which the 20 participants around the table interacted. Welcome to the Peace Party!
Bobby Bell at UMKC
CMC participated in a conference at the UMKC Student Union last Monday, presented by The Department of Justice Community Task Force on Hate Crimes. The conference addressed hate within our community and schools and featured Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Famer Bobby Bell Sr., who spoke about the discrimination he faced when he first came to Kansas City in 1959.
Nationally renowned experts Suellen Fried, author of “Banishing Bully Behavior”, and Leonard Zeskind, author of “White Nationalism within Missouri and Kansas” brought information and awareness to attendees. What caught my attention was the combination of social service and non-profit staff members, police officers, court employees, and federal agents; a combination of folks that usually do not work together toward a common goal.
Patrice O’Neil from the “Not in Our Town” organization invited participants to a break out session to discuss ways to bring public awareness and decrease hate crimes in the Kansas City area. My circle included CMC Executive Board Member Rose McLarney, CMC Restorative Justice Facilitator Mikhala Lantz-Simmons, and numerous FBI and Police Department representatives from KCMO and the Platte County Sheriff’s Department. The need for SAFETY, ACCEPTANCE and INCLUSION, brought about by AWARENESS, EDUCATION and COOPERATION between social service and law enforcement agencies punctuated the conversation.
Reduction in hate crimes, discrimination and bullying behavior must include preemptive discourse that brings people from different communities together for face to face facilitated discussions. Restorative Justice processes that include all parties effected by wrongdoing in creating plans for restitution works toward cooperation and acceptance to dispel prejudice. Conference participants had the opportunity to sign up for a continuing task force on hate crimes that will move forward with the support of the FBI and local law enforcement. Many attendees committed to ongoing work in this area. Welcome to the Peace Party!
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