Community Justice Board drafts bylaws

Nov. 4, 2010

By Greg Duggan
Observer staff

Williston’s Community Justice Board has worked with nonviolent offenders since 2001, but to gain formal recognition from the town, the board was asked to come up with a set of governing bylaws.

The Community Justice Board changed its name from the Williston Reparative Board toward the beginning of the year, and in early spring asked the Selectboard to become an official town body. The Selectboard approved the request in April, with the condition that the board develop official bylaws.

Community Justice Board Temporary Coordinator Adina Panitch and member Ruth Skiff presented the proposed bylaws to the Selectboard on Monday night.

The bylaws contain four articles. Article 1 provides a mission statement and description of the board, as well as explaining the purpose of the body. Article 2 covers operating principles, while Article 3 explains membership rules. Article 4 encompasses adoption and amendment of bylaws.

The Community Justice Board works with people who have committed a crime, often shoplifting or vandalism, in Williston. Meetings between the board and offenders take place before a person is charged with a crime, allowing people a chance to avoid criminal records.

“The Williston Community Justice Board is an organization dedicated to ensuring that the people it serves have the resources they need to resolve conflicts and promote problem solving in creative ways that encourage feelings of fairness, safety, and inclusion,” reads the opening line of the bylaws.

The Selectboard postponed adoption of the bylaws, using the meeting instead to offer advice about the language of the document.

Selectboard member Jeff Fehrs offered “constructive comments” to provide more focus in the bylaws. He wanted terms, including “restorative justice,” to be defined, and he wanted to see more details about the process of working with offenders.

Selectboard member Chris Roy suggested the Community Justice Board define restorative justice in the mission statement, and said doing so would provide a good foundation for the rest of the bylaws.

Panitch called restorative justice the “guiding philosophy” of the board. Skiff explained that restorative justice allows offenders to recognize the impact of their behavior on the community and then make amends.

Operating as an official town body was meant to give the Community Justice Board better access to training and technical assistance offered by the Department of Corrections.

The board is in the process of hiring a coordinator, Panitch said.

“We really appreciate what you do,” Selectboard Chairman Terry Macaig told Panitch and Skiff.