Why Essex? Essex Community Justice Center

Interview with Jill Evans, Director

The Essex Community Justice Center (CJC) is tucked away in an unassuming office building behind Rocky’s Pizza.  While the building looks ordinary on the outside, when I walked in I was greeted by a cozy and bright space complete with couches, wall art, and of course hot coffee.

The comfy design is by intention-big discussions happen here, and participants need to be relaxed.  The goal of the CJC is to use restorative practices as an alternative to the traditional criminal justice system which focuses on the victim and how to repair the harm, if possible.  The goal is for the victim’s voice and needs to be central to the outcome. Trained volunteers facilitate the process, called Restorative Justice Panels, that ends with the responsible party developing an agreement to repair the harm and to learn how to make different choices in the future.

In addition, the Essex CJC runs a Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) program to assist individuals transitioning out of prison.  The purpose of CoSA is to ensure that there are no more victims while supporting and connecting the individual to their community in a positive way.  This process helps reduce recidivism, enhances community safety, and increases the chances that they will be successful.

Jill said that the programs at the CJC wouldn’t happen without volunteers from the community.  The Essex CJC currently has 39 volunteers with the Restorative Panel program and 12 volunteers with the CoSA program.  

Here is what one volunteer had to say about their experience, “As human beings, it’s easy to fall into the belief that our mistakes determine our future, but the truth is that we are more than the sum of our past.  Nothing is more satisfying than showing up, listening and mentoring someone who is dealing with overwhelming obstacles, and witnessing shame and guilt transform into hope.” 

Interested in learning more or volunteering?  Check out the Essex CJC website: http://essexcjc.org/.    

Why Essex? “Because the Essex Police Department supports the use of Restorative Justice and refers cases to us instead of through the traditional criminal justice process.” -Jill Evans

Why Essex? is a weekly(ish) column highlighting the people and places that make Essex an interesting and special place. Have an idea for the column? E-mail Darby Mayville at darby@ essexjunction.org.