Activity 1: Conferences under the YCJA
Give your students Handout 1: YCJA Conferences to read for homework. Discuss the highlights in class. You can ask your students who the victims of crime might be.
- Is there such a thing as victimless crime?
- Have they or anyone they know ever been a victim of crime?
Teachers should explain to students they are not being asked to divulge any personal information but to find out what the victim’s experience in the court system is like. The teacher could then explain some of the changes that are appearing in our justice system through the provisions of the YCJA for instance.
Depending on the time available, the teacher may do one of the following:
- Simply impart the information on Handout 2: Introduction to Restorative Justice. You can hand it out to the students and discuss the contents.
- Ask students to research restorative justice.
- Invite knowledgeable people in the community to speak with students on the topic.
Teachers may also consult their local RCMP public relations officers, who should have information on some of the restorative justice programs in the community.
Community Justice Conference or Healing Circle Simulations
Role-playing a community justice conference or a healing circle is a great way for your students to understand the impact of conferences and how this alternative to the court system may be a very effective solution. There are two scripted and one non-scripted samples here. The scripted conferences deal with less serious offences while the non- scripted healing circle deals with a very serious offence. See Handout 3, Handout 4 and Handout 5.
Assign the roles. Photocopy the script for all simulation participants. After the simulation, collect all the scripts from the participants. It is important to collect these scripts so they are not adapted by youth in real community justice conferences.
Before you start the simulation, read the scenario to the group. It is important to note that community justice conferences occur much more quickly than court trials. One major advantage is that the incident isn’t in the distant past when the conference is held.
At community justice conferences, facilitators follow a basic script but with experience they learn what works best for their own styles of facilitating and modify the procedures a little. A conference facilitator could be a volunteer or a police officer from the community, trained in conferencing. This process is also being used in some schools with great success.
Set up the chairs up in a circle and ask everyone to be seated around the circle. The victims and the officer should sit on either side of the facilitator and the young offender should sit opposite side, beside his or her supporters which may include family. Conduct the role play using the scripted conference.
At the end of the simulation discuss whether or not the group feels the consequence for the youth was appropriate. Talk about what could have happened in the court system. Ask the group to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the conference.
Case Summary for Handout 3
Handout 3: Edwin and the Slashed Tires-Scripted Community Justice Conference is summarized below. This scenario is based on a real case but the names have been changed.
On November 18 the RCMP received a call from a resident in the 1200 block of Pine Avenue. The caller reported his tires had recently been slashed. The RCMP attended the residence. Upon arrival, the RCMP noticed the slashing had to be recent, as the tire was hissing. As a result, the RCMP tracking dog was called to the scene. While searching for a suspect, the RCMP noticed several other cars within the neighborhood with slashed tires. Thirty tires were slashed.
The RCMP saw a young male acting suspicious and stopped him. The male gave the RCMP a false name. Upon further questioning, the individual admitted he was involved and gave his true name. However, he was uncooperative and would not disclose any information about who he was with. Two other youth were eventually identified and the knife that was used to slash the tires was found in Edwin’s possession.
Male 1 is 16 (Edwin Green) Male 2 is 16 (Joe White) Male 3 is 17 (Marty Brown). All three are of Aboriginal ancestry. Edwin has a previous record for a minor assault. Edwin and Marty were downtown Friday night. Both had been drinking tequila. The boys had nothing to do, so they walked over to Joe’s house at 11:30 pm, and then all three went for a walk. Because they were bored they decided to slash tires. Edwin had the knife and all three took turns slashing tires. One of the three would walk close to a car and stab at the tire while the other two walked ahead to keep a lookout. They did this over a period of one half-hour. Edwin indicated he was angry that evening because at school a boy was calling him racist names. Edwin stated he intentionally went to that boy’s house with the intent to slash the boy’s father’s tires on two cars. From there on they just continued to slash tires all over the neighborhood.
All victims were upset and could not understand the rationale behind the incident. The RCMP and victims agreed to have the charges dealt with by a community justice conference. Edwin lived in a series of foster homes and recently returned to live with his mother. He is in a special needs class. When cornered or frustrated he is prone to violent outbursts. He had a hard time understanding the crime from the victims’ perspective. When he was asked whom he thought was affected, his response was “they all have big houses.” There was a separate community justice conference for each of the boys. This conference follows what happened to Edwin.
Case Summary for Handout 4
Handout 4: The Dare-Community Justice Scripted Conference is summarized below.
Jason, 17, visited his friends at a neighbouring school one day during lunch hour. As the lunch hour was drawing to an end his friends dared him to pull the fire alarm before returning to his own school. "I just might," he said as his friends were heading to their classrooms. Jason surprised himself by pulling the alarm before walking out of the school. He stood outside to watch. He was a little surprised by the number of people who were filing out of the school - and he was a little nervous that someone may have seen him pull the alarm. He began heading back to his own school but he did not run, as he did not want to appear to be suspicious. "I hope they enjoy the sunshine," he muttered as he glanced back towards the students and staff standing outside the school. It wasn’t long before the rumours began to spread. The police questioned
Jason’s friends and they admitted to daring Jason to pull the alarm. When a police officer visited Jason, he confessed that he had pulled the alarm. He had a couple of previous dealings with the police — such as the time when they dumped out his beer when he was in a park with a bunch of other kids but he had never been to court. Jason is in grade 11. He is not a great student but he is getting by. He doesn’t have a part-time job but he hopes to work as a mechanic one day.
Jason could be charged with mischief. Mischief occurred in this case when Jason wilfully obstructed, interrupted or interfered with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property by pulling the fire alarm. If he is found guilty then the maximum penalty would be up to two years imprisonment.
Things to Discuss
- Would a police warning be sufficient here? Why or why not?
- Should the police send this file to Crown counsel?
- Does Jason need to be taught a major lesson?
- Do others need to see that the offender in this case received a severe punishment?
Teacher Information for the Simulation: This conference is based on a real case but the names have been changed to protect the youth's identity and some of the facts were changed to make the simulation more expedient.
Jason Grewal, a 17-year-old who lived with his mother, a single parent, in the interior of British Columbia, was known to police but he did not have a criminal record. When Jason was questioned by the police, he immediately confessed. He appeared to be scared and remorseful.The police officer gave Jason an opportunity to participate in a Community Justice Conference rather than sending the information on to Crown counsel. Jason likely would have been charged with mischief if the incident had gone to court.
The conference information is confidential and participants will not receive a criminal record if they choose to participate and accept the conditions imposed rather than go through the court system. Before the conference, the conference facilitator spoke with Jason, his mother, the principal, the assistant principal and the investigating officer. The facilitator told them where and when the conference would take place. Jason could have anyone else attend that he thought might be supportive, such as his grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, friends, teachers or coaches. The school principal was at the conference to represent the concerns of the victims, which, in this case, were the students, the staff and the members of the fire department. The principal was told that she and any other victims who attended should think about what they might ask of Jason to repair the harm done by his actions.
Case Summary for Handout 5
Handout 5: Frank Brown-Healing Circle Non-Scripted Simulation is summarized below.
Frank Brown was a very angry 17-year-old of First Nations descent who grew up in Bella Bella. Frank and some friends decided to steal some alcohol from a local bootlegger but didn't anticipate running into the man. They assaulted him very seriously and the community felt Frank was a dangerous young man. To make matters worse, Frank had been carrying a loaded gun. This wasn’t the first time Frank had been in trouble. He had a previous conviction for breaking and entering and had been sentenced to a corrections camp for 16 months. However, his time in corrections didn’t seem to have any kind of positive impact. In fact, he had been negatively influenced there by other troubled teens.
The community felt Frank and the crowd he was running with were dangerous. This latest incident confirmed their fears. A group of people who cared about Frank felt if he was sent to jail he would be exposed to a lot of bad influences and come back to Bella Bella worse than when he left. They were willing to try to come up with a plan that would help Frank understand his background, appreciate his culture and turn his life around. Frank’s early home life had been unstable and probably contributed to his troubled teen years. However, this latest wrongdoing was too serious to be overlooked.
- What advantages would come from jailing Frank?
- What are some disadvantages of a jail sentence?
- What are some alternatives that might be considered?
- What do you suggest should happen to Frank and why?
- What are the victim’s views and needs?
Invite students to play roles in the healing circle that focuses on Frank’s case. You may want to give out the role cards the period before, so students can become more familiar with their roles.
After studying their role cards, students will assume the role of the character assigned to them. They tell the story from the notes in the role cards. Each person has a turn to speak. While they tell their story, everyone else must listen with respect. When everyone has had the chance to tell his or her story, the circle leader tells them we have come together to try to decide what should happen to Frank. Everyone should be given the opportunity to tell what he or she thinks is the best way to solve the problem. They should consider:
- His family
- His victims
- The community he lives in
What solution would be best for all of them? After everyone has had a chance to speak, the circle leader should ask if they can come to an agreement. They can be given a chance to discuss the various suggestions. After some discussion, they can vote on what they think is the best solution. Then people can talk about the effect their solution would have on the various people involved: Frank, his family, his victims and the community. Will it make things better for everyone or will it make things worse?
After the simulation you may wish to show them the video in which they can meet Frank Brown and those to whom he paid tribute. His story is told in the video, Voyage of Rediscovery, which is part of the First Nations Series, The Circle Unbroken (National Film Board of Canada, 1983 ISBN Number 0-7122-0490-X.)
You can use Handout 6: Conferences-Quiz for evaluation of this part.
See the Answer Key for Handout 6 in the Assessment section.
Activity 2: Victims and Youth Justice
What about the victims of youth crime?
Have the students role-play to understand how victims of crime might feel. The following activities will help students to understand the impact of crime on victims.
Ask the students to remember a time when something happened to them that they felt was unfair. Perhaps someone hurt them or took something from them and that person did not receive any punishment. Or perhaps their parents or someone their family knows has experienced a break and enter at their home or the theft of a car. Before students share their experiences orally have them visualize the incident in their minds and try to recall where they were at the time, who was involved, what was said and the details of the incident. The more detailed their memories are then the more readily they will be able to relate to the impact of crime on victims in general. Have them share their experiences in small groups.
Brainstorm as to the various emotions that victims may experience: anger, sadness, fear and worry. Some of the students may have actually been a victim themselves and this could trigger some emotional reactions especially if it was a physical or sexual assault. Victims do need to tell someone but you may want the school nurse on hand for counselling just in case.
Ask the students to consider what penalties or consequences could have been imposed to make them feel like the wrong had been addressed. They could consider consequences such as payment for an item, replacement of an item, a letter of apology, time spent repairing something, or time spent rendering a service.
Have the students sit in small discussion groups. Read the following the story to the class:
"Trevor was a troubled young man with no family. He lived in a group home. By 16, he had already been having run-ins with the police for a couple of years and most of the people who knew him, in the small B.C. town where he lived, were convinced that he would end up in jail. He did not attend school often nor did he have a job. Late one night the police caught him smashing the expensive plate-glass front window of a Main Street camera shop. He had planned to break into the shop and to steal camera equipment, which he was going to sell to a pawnshop in the big city. He was going to use the money to buy a motorcycle. As he sat in the back seat of the police cruiser he knew his desire for a motorbike was the least of his problems."
Pause at this point in the story and tell the class that Trevor could be charged with breaking and entering and that he might spend time in custody. Ask the students how the victim, the owner of the camera shop, might feel after his shop window had been destroyed and some of his camera equipment had been damaged.
- What do the students think this shop owner would want to have done to right this wrong?
- What alternative(s) to the formal court system might exist for Trevor?
Have the students discuss how this case could be resolved without having Trevor go to court. Have one member of each group report back to the class. Continue the story.
"Trevor could have ended up in court however Crown counsel referred him to a Community Alternative Measures Program. When Trevor agreed to participate, a meeting was set up with the police officer, Trevor's group home parents, the owner of the camera shop and other members of the community who deal with the counselling of young offenders. At the meeting, Trevor took responsibility for what he had done and he agreed to pay for the cost of replacing the window by working in the camera shop. He also agreed to a period of counselling to help him get his life on the right track."
Go over Handout 7: Victims and Youth Justice with your students highlighting the important points before they work on the following scenarios.
The Victim’s Point of View
Give Handout 8: YCJA-The Victim’s Point of View to each of your groups. Assign one of the scenarios to each group. The group should discuss their case and determine how alternative measures could be applied to that case rather than using the formal court system. Each group must be prepared to explain to the whole class the details of the case, how the victim would feel after the crime was committed, what solution they would come up for in the case, what the victim would think of their solution and what the offender could do to right the wrong. Remind the students that consequences can be created to suit their case: payment, time given in community service, repair or replacement of something, participation in drug/alcohol counselling or anger management programs, mandatory attendance in school, non-association with certain people and/or time spent helping someone do things that they are no longer able to do because of the injury they suffered as a result of the crime.
At the end of this activity, use Handout 9: YCJA Victims and Youth Justice-Quiz to test students’ knowledge.
See the Answer Key for Handout 9 in the Assessment section.