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Full Circle hopes to expand program

by Casey Kelly
Mountain Mail Staff Writer

After receiving a legislative nod from HB 13-1254 in August, Full Circle Restorative Justice hopes to raise donations to expand its community justice and conflict-resolution program.

Executive Director Patty LaTaille said restorative justice distinguishes itself from the traditional penal system because its focus is on the victim in the case. While the traditional legal system asks “who did it and what do they deserve,” restorative justice focuses on “who has been hurt and what are their needs,” LaTaille said.

Full Circle is currently aiming for a $5,000 Anschutz Family Foundation Challenge Grant, for which the program is trying to raise matching funds. LaTaille said the granting organization likes to see a match from the community because it shows community buy-in for the idea.

So far the program has raised about $2,800 from individual donations and donations from organizations like Monarch Community Outreach and Salida City Council.

She said in many cases in the traditional justice system, the defendant pays some money to the victim, called restitution, but often doesn’t hear how they harmed the other person or have a chance to apologize.

“(Restorative justice) is a humanizing, common-sense approach,” LaTaille said. “Our focus has been on juveniles, but it is used in all different kinds of cases.”

She said the program is most effective for younger kids and first-time offenders. Cases are referred to the program on a case-by-case basis.

The program has also been adopted in some of the county’s schools, with circles being held at Salida Middle School. Aspects of the program, like nonviolent communication, have been introduced at Chaffee County High School and Horizons Exploratory Academy.

The town of Buena Vista gave the program $1,000 in January to expand its reach into the Buena Vista area.

In the past, the victim of a crime had to initiate the restorative justice process, according to LaTaille.

A bill that went into effect Aug. 7, HB 13-1254 “Restorative Justice,” changes the requirement of victim initiation, in some cases, to allow juvenile offenders or the district attorney to initiate the restorative justice program.

The bill also creates a $10 restorative justice surcharge that anyone convicted of a non-traffic crime, and any person adjudicated of a crime, must pay. Money collected from the surcharge will go to fund restorative justice programs and to cover the administrative costs of the restorative justice coordinating council.

Additionally the bill creates a pilot project for restorative justice programs in the 10th, 19th, 12th and 20th judicial districts.

LaTaille said the legislator who spearheaded the restorative justice referral law that recently went into effect will come to Salida Sept. 14 to discuss how the program is being used across the state.

House District 18 Rep. Pete Lee (D-Colo. Springs) and his wife, restorative justice facilitator Lynn Lee, will speak from 10 a.m. to noon Sept. 14 in the Salida High School auditorium.

“Various individuals involved with restorative justice locally will also share their stories on how transformational the RJ process can be – and how rewarding the experience is for victims and family and community members,” LaTaille said.

Full Circle plans to use the challenge grant funds to expand the reach of its program and also to hire a part-time program coordinator to introduce the program to area schools and be a training facilitator, she said.

The deadline for Full Circle’s fundraising drive is Oct. 15.

“Your donations support our youth and improve the safety of our community,” LaTaille said.

Full Circle is trying to reach its fundraising goal, in part, through the sales of See’s Candies, LaTaille said. The bars are available in milk chocolate with toffee, dark chocolate walnut square bars and dark chocolate bars with almonds.

The bars are available at the Full Circle Restorative Justice office at 7405 W. U.S. 50, Suite 111. They are also available around town at The Centerville Sugar Shack, Crest Counseling, Season’s Celebrations, the Mountain Motel and the Junque Drawer, or by calling 221-3069.

For more information about how to donate to Full Circle Restorative Justice’s Challenge Grant fundraising drive, visit fullcirclerj.net or call 221-3069.

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