Community Board Joins the Peace Party

IMG_4682Jackie, 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 situation such as this calls for a Restorative Justice response that goes beyond the criminal justice system’s ability to meet the needs of those involved.

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

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