Community justice, victims' rights take conference spotlight

Posted: Friday, October 06, 2000

More than 100 law enforcement, social service and community officials are among the leaders in various capacities expected to attend next week's 2000 Community Justice Conference in Kenai.

The daylong conference is scheduled for Thursday at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center. Others are scheduled this month in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau.

The conference will focus on the growing national trend of community justice, a way of viewing, understanding and responding to crime and the effects it has on victims, communities and offenders, said Sue Ford, the Kenai District Adult Probation supervisor for the state Department of Corrections.

"I would hope it will educate the community to responding to victims' rights and in particular the need to address problems as a community," Ford said, adding that October is national Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

A brochure highlighting the event describes community justice as a way to "promote understanding, accountability and healing. Offenders are held personally responsible to their victims and/or community for making amends and, to the extent possible, helping to repair the damage and injuries they caused. Community justice creates community partnerships and offers a balanced approach to justice."

Ford said bringing the conference to the Kenai Peninsula is a natural way to involve a broad section of community leaders, which will include school and hospital administrators, city and borough officials, public health managers and church pastors.

"We are a pretty networked community," Ford said. "There are a lot of managers on different boards around town and everyone stays involved.

"We wanted to address the different community leaders on issues pertinent to our area."

The conference's keynote speaker is Anne Seymour, a Washington, D.C.-based consultant specializing in criminal justice, crime victims' rights and public safety.

Ford said Seymour's current work includes public policy development, training and technical assistance, program evaluation, corrections-based victim services and restorative justice. The conference agenda is broken into six parts, Ford said, and will include presentations on innovations in victim services, avoiding practitioner burnout and victim rights pertaining to juvenile offenders.

"The other conferences in Anchorage and Fairbanks are a little more interactive with booths. But we want Anne to address the issues and leave it as an open format to have a free exchange of information," Ford said. "There will be people from all over the peninsula there."

Ford said some of the questions the conference will hopefully address include the implementation of victims' rights laws already on the books as well as ways to increase crime victims' willingness to report crimes and participate in criminal and juvenile justice processes.

"We will be talking a lot about juvenile crime, something we're really concerned with right now," Ford said, "as well as restorative justice through the community. It's a big area for corrections now."

The conference also will feature the "Silent Witness" display, a dozen wooden figures painted black to represent children and adults in the state that have been domestic violence or homicide victims. Signs near the figures list when each incident occurred.

"It makes a statement without saying anything," Ford said.

Kenai-Soldotna Women's Resource and Crisis Center Executive Director Evelina Giobbe said the conference will go a long way in keeping community leaders informed and educated on community justice issues.

"(Community justice) is certainly the way of the nation now in understanding crime and how it diminishes us as a community," Giobbe said. "We're looking for ways to have accountability and reconciliation at the same time in being part of a social justice system.

"It will be interesting to see the questions that are generated and how the participants are going to take that new information and apply it."

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