Social worker brings together victims and offenders

Kim Riddell. Image by Greg Ehlers.

Kim Riddell, a local social worker and a graduate of our online Restorative Justice Certificate, has seen the power of restorative justice firsthand.

She spent years working with offenders both inside and outside of correctional facilities to help them integrate back into the community after serving their sentences. She always saw their humanity, believing they were much more than “bad” people—they were hurt people who needed to deal with what they’d done, but also heal themselves. “You get to see a different side to people than you read about in the paper. I’ve almost never had anyone be rude to me,” she says.

“No one is all good or bad. Offenders are complex individuals with their own set of hurts and needs and deserve the respect of people working with them.”

As a volunteer at the Abbotsford Restorative Justice and Advocacy Association (ARJAA), she’s a regular advocate for working to restore the relationships between those that have caused harm, their victims, and the community—and for changing attitudes about offenders.

“We’ve got a long way to go, but it is worth the effort for everyone involved and our community at large,” she says.

ARJAA is working with the Abbotsford Community Police Office to mediate between victims and offenders and seek resolution outside of the courtroom.

The association is also involved in mentoring at-risk youth, and has implemented a restorative justice program in the community schools.

According to Riddell, they hope to expand their community involvement. “We believe that the health of communities is the responsibility of its citizens,” she says.

Riddell acknowledges that the restorative justice process can be difficult—sometimes even more difficult than going to court. But in her opinion, it’s well worth it.

“To see victims go from ‘eye for an eye’ to really understanding where a person has come from—it’s just been so rewarding and made me such an advocate for this process. When it works, all sides reap the benefits.”

By Amy Robertson