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Victim-offender service closed

Mar 06, 2014

from the announcement from the Restorative Justice Centre:

The Restorative Just Centre (RJC) is appalled and deeply distressed to announce that it has been forced to close its victim offender conference service in Tshwane, as a result of government’s withdrawal of funding. The RJC is the only organisation providing this type of service in Tshwane.

The closure took effect on 3 March 2014.

The RJC pioneered this service in 2001 and has dealt with about 3000 cases and 10 000 beneficiaries since then. During this time, the approach of restorative justice and the service of facilitating dialogue between victims and offenders has become mandated in legislation and other policy, featured in the speeches of Ministers and been endorsed and actively supported by the courts, right up to the level of the Constitutional Court.

The benefits of victim offender conferencing include creating space for victims to have a voice, offering them the possibility of restitution and helping offenders accept responsibility. International and local research has shown that the level of satisfaction of participants in these dialogues is very high, that it reduces repeat offending, and that it alleviates pressure on court rolls. All these indicators point to the fact that this intervention adds real value to the administration of justice and that it reduces the cost. It also provides a very tangible way in which citizens are able (directly and through civil society organisations) to engage with the state as partners in responding to crime.

In the 13 years that the RJC has rendered the service, it has been funded largely by the Gauteng Department of Social Development (DSD) and the National Lottery Development Trust Fund (NLDTF), with some support from business.  In March 2013 DSD informed the RJC that it could no longer fund the service due to ‘rationalizing/streamlining’ services. In February 2014 we were informed that DSD has sufficient service providers. However, no one else is providing this service in the Tshwane area, including DSD. Our application to the NLDTF submitted in December 2012 has still not been assessed. Despite submitting over 100 proposals to potential CSI partners, the response has not been sufficient to sustain the service.

While the withdrawal of funding by DSD is difficult to understand, so too is the lack of available funding by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Prosecution Authority (NPA).  Both the DOJ and the NPA benefit directly when a victim offender conferencing service is available but have never been given the budget to contribute financially to it. It is a sad indictment of our Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster of departments that despite the clear value this service offers victims, offenders, communities and the system, it is not able to allocate resources to it, which will now result in the loss of this service to the people of Tshwane..

The RJC is continuing to offer a conflict resolution service to schools and to workplaces, on a fee-paying basis.

Read the full article.

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