September 20, 2014

HISTORY

The Center for Community Justice serves Elkhart County by providing programs, based on the principles of Restorative Justice, which strengthen community safety, provide support and compensation for victims, aid in the restoration of offenders, and promote reconciliation among victims, offenders, and the community.

The basic principles of restorative justice are:
·         Crime is fundamentally a violation of people and interpersonal relationships.
·         Violations create obligations and liabilities.
·         These obligations and liabilities need to be fulfilled in order to allow people to heal and to make things right.

CCJ offers seven quality programs and one class all rooted in principles of restorative justice.   These include not only victim-offender reconciliation, but mediation in civil, criminal, family, divorce, landlord-tenant, and other matters; community service opportunities for offenders and victim impact panels to make the consequences of drunk driving “real” to offenders.  CCJ served 4,200 people last year and will continue to grow with your support.

Our programs give offenders the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions, and give the victims a voice in our criminal justice system.  CCJ originated with Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP) in 1977 by an Elkhart County juvenile probation officer who discovered the program operating in Canada.  VORP quickly outgrew the resources of the probation department and joined a regional organization called Prisoners and Community Together (PACT) in 1979, and Elkhart County PACT was born.  Following this, Community Service Restitution Program (CSRP) began.

In 1984 the two programs discontinued their association with PACT and CCJ, Inc., a 501(c)(3) was created.  CCJ’s vision is for vibrant communities – safe, just and engaged and our mission is transforming the communities of Elkhart County through restorative justice.

Over the years, CCJ has introduced other restorative justice programs.  CCJ started and currently offers the following programs: Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (1977); Community Service Restitution Program (1979); Victim Impact Panel (1993); Community Mediation Program (1999); Family Mediation Program (2008); Thinking for a Change Classes (2011); Transitional Coaching Program (2012); and Reading for Life (2014).  CCJ has actively worked in Elkhart County for over thirty years providing successful restorative justice programming.

CCJ began as a struggling and passionate group who were mission driven with the goal to restore relationships that resulted from the harms of crime.   Over time the agency built strong relationships with the court system and eventually became a part of the system and state funding. The funding CCJ received for programing was supported by grants from the state and ample user fees that covered overhead and all administration costs; as well as the agency’s other program deficits. In 2009 the programs with strong financial structures shifted to county government.

This was a struggle and also a blessing.  Center for Community Justice had to examine their identity.   Rather than being part of the criminal justice system and state-funded; the agency redefined itself.   The first year, 2011 was spent analyzing where we came from and what is our story?  What does justice really mean?  Since then, CCJ has been working to build an agency where all the programs are true to the principles of restorative justice: creating opportunities where all of Elkhart County can heal from the harms that happen in relationship and in life whether through business, neighborhood conflict, or crime.  CCJ is now a community based agency, supported by the community.  We are we need the community support and awareness to continue this work.