copyright the Chronicle February 19, 2014
by Joseph Gresser
NEWPORT — A slight man with dark hair and a neatly trimmed beard walked into a small room at the Community Justice Center here and looked around at the three people who, in the course of an hour’s conversation, could help shape his future.
Walter Medwid, coordinator of Newport’s reparative justice system, had already met Damion (for the sake of privacy, only offenders’ first names are used in this story). He shook his hand and introduced him to Ed Brochu, Isobel Marks, and Terry Collins, who also greeted the young man warmly.
Having pled guilty in November to unlawful trespass in an occupied dwelling, Damion was reporting to a reparative board, one of the less-heralded parts of Vermont’s criminal justice system.
The reparative justice program is intended to repair the damage to the community that a crime causes, and to persuade the person who committed the act to accept responsibility and make amends. The program is also designed to let the offender know that, once those goals are reached, he or she is again in the community’s good graces. It’s intended primarily for first-time lawbreakers who commit non-violent offenses.