Leaders take a look at restorative justice | NevadaAppeal.com

Leaders take a look at restorative justice

F.T. Norton, Appeal Staff Writer
Marty Price, a spokesperson for the Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program, speaks to Carson City Residents about alternative sentencing programs, including havng criminals volunteer to speak to victims to help erase some of the fear felt by victims. Photo by Brian Corley

Not all victims are willing to face the people who perpetrated a crime against them, but a grass-roots program in Carson City aims to give them the option.

About 75 people Thursday, including community leaders in education and law enforcement, attended a seminar at Western Nevada Community College to introduce an idea promoted by the Western Nevada Center for Restorative Justice and Reconciliation: using mediation to help victims find closure and to help rehabilitate offenders.

Mary Pierczynski, Carson City superintendent of schools, said she found the idea interesting.

“I’m happy that people are looking at other ways to try to help young people from getting into trouble, ” she said. “I guess the upshot is, it’s going to help (offenders) to look at what they are really doing. It’s certainly worth a shot. It’s just part of a process to try to help everyone heal.”

Mediation involves a voluntary meeting between the victim and offender facilitated by a trained mediator. With the assistance of the mediator, the victim and offender begin to resolve the conflict and to construct their own approach to achieving justice in the face of their particular crime.

In juvenile cases, the mediation can be used as sentence diversion. But in adult cases, there will be no reduction in sentence because of the meeting.

Emory Crews, whose son, Darryl, was murdered in 1994, sees no benefit to coming face to face with convicted killer Conrad Holmes.

“I just am not interested in that,” Crews said. Holmes is serving life with possible parole for the murder. He is eligible for parole in February and Crews will — for the third time — fight to keep his son’s killer behind bars.

At one point, Holmes wrote to the grieving father to ask to add him to his visitors’ list at the prison. Crews declined.

“I felt like it was more or less a ploy to get on my good side. I’m his obstacle for freedom. I’ve never wanted to meet him face to face. I don’t think there’s any excuse for what he did,” he said. Crews did not attend Thursday’s seminar.

A seminar participant, Monte Fast, director of Friends In Service Helping, said though he found the concept innovative, he wasn’t sure of its practicality.

“The idea is something I think that needs to be added to our way of dealing with offenders and victims and to the system, but it’s not the answer to the problems of prison overcrowding,” Fast said. “I think there are some people in the prisons who could be changed by this program and we should try, but I don’t think very many victims want to go out there and try to change these people’s lives,” he said.

District Attorney Noel Waters said if nothing else, the program’s value was in the cathartic effect it could have on victims.

“When victims testify, they don’t necessarily feel like it’s cathartic,” he said. “This program would give them that.”