EVRJP Spotlight: Justice-based programming in the Estes Valley

Estes Valley Restorative Justice Partnership (EVRJP) provides proactive and responsive restorative processes that enhance cooperation, encourage understanding and strengthen relationships. One way they do this is through justice-based programs.

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

At that time, the community was struggling with unique challenges related to juvenile crime. Between 1994 and 2002, there was an uptick in juvenile incidents in the Riverside Plaza area. Reports of graffitti, damage to parked vehicles, harassment of visitors and merchants, and vandalism of local businesses led to public outcry for police intervention. The Estes Park Police Department initiated a series of strategies to address the problem. The tactics resulted in increased arrests and strict enforcement of local ordinances. The strategy resulted in a substantial reduction of crime and disorderly activity along with a drastic increase in juvenile arrests.

While effective at reducing crime and disorderly conduct, the tactic led to increased tensions between the enforcing 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 community youth advocates realized that an alternative solution had to be pursued. Restorative Justice was that solution.

In January of 2002, Estes Park Police Department worked with community partners to host a workshop that brought together business, youth, adult, and local government stakeholders to discuss needs and identify solutions. From that workshop, a sub-committee — the Estes Valley Restorative Justice Task Force — was formed. The group, which evolved into EVRJP, adopted the Community Group Conference 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 harmed parties, responsible parties and community following a crime or wrongdoing — in order to understand the real impacts that the crime or violation has on people and community. Through a structured process facilitated by trained staff and volunteers, participants have an opportunity to talk about their experience. They identify harms and collectively work to identify ways that the person responsible can work to repair those harms. In order to be considered, responsible parties must have a willingness to take accountability, make meaningful reparation of harm and commit to not causing similar harm in the future. The process — which is voluntary for all participants — and its resulting agreement emphasizes respect, relationship, responsibility, repair and reintegration.

While EVRJP was initially formed as an alternative to address juvenile crime, in 2007 the Community Group Conference model opened up to serve adults as well. A formal Memorandum of Understanding between the police department and district attorney’s office was adopted to allow officers to refer cases directly to EVRJP as an alternative to the court system.

Since its inception twenty years ago, the Community Group Conference program has expanded to meet community needs. EVRJP currently partners with and accepts referrals from the Estes Park Police Department, Larimer County Sheriff’s Office, Estes Valley Fire Protection District, Estes Park Municipal Court and the Larimer County District Attorney’s Office. Referrals can be made directly in lieu of criminal charges or as part of a diversion, deferred sentence or judgment.

In addition to the abovementioned programming, in 2006 EVRJP began offering Community Reentry Circles to assist those who are reintegrating into the community following incarceration. Through support and accountability, a circle group of community members serve as spokes in a wheel to connect a previously incarcerated person, with tools and resources that enable them to more successfully navigate 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, circle participation becomes a part of their parole plan. Learn more about EVRJP’s Community Circles and justice-based processes at www.estes.org/restorative-justice-programs.

EVRJP relies on community support to provide services and programming. Help grow and sustain restorative justice in the Estes Valley by participating in the 2022 Better To-Go Fundraiser Dinner on Nov. 30. Enjoy great food to-go 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. Learn more about Estes Valley Restorative Justice Partnership at www.estes.org/restorativejustice.

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About Pep Dekekr

Pep loves Estes Park, he lives here with his family and hopes to bring people to Estes Park and Estes Park to the people. Along with his wife Paige, they own EstesPark.com.

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