Increased Grant To Improve Bellows Falls Justice Center

Bellows Falls Shopper Dec. 10, 2011

Increased Grant To Improve Bellows Falls Justice Center

BELLOWS FALLS, VT. - The villageof Bellows Falls is in the process of improving and expanding its Restorative Justice Center program - which has been active for over a decade - after recently receiving a program grant increase from the Department of Corrections. The Bellows Falls Restorative Justice Center is one of 17 such centers throughout Vermont.

Photo by Joe Milliken

The program brings misdemeanor criminals to justice by a board made up of their fellow residents, which keeps such cases local and out of the Brattleboro court system. The program allows its members to execute justice on small offenses, hopefully keep offenders out of the larger court system. If the individual does not follow through with the board's decision, then they are forced to appear in the Brattleboro court.

Police Chief Ron Lake of the Bellows Falls Police Department recently announced an estimated grant increase from $16,000 to $30,000 from the Department of Corrections in order to expand and improve the program. With the increased budget, the BFPD recently brought on Bellows Falls resident Ed Cooney-Moore as the part-time director of the Justice Center.

Cooney-Moore has many years experience working for the Department of Corrections and in fact, was hired back in 1999 to expand the original Bellows Falls Justice Center. "After a couple years, I've realized that I don't really take to retirement very well," Cooney Moore said with a chuckle in a recent interview. "Ron Lake had gotten in touch with me back in August about reviving the restorative justice program, after it had temporarily stalled, as cases had stopped coming down the pipeline."

Police Chief Lake stated ata previous Bellows Falls Board of Trustees meeting that the BFPD is currently looking for a permanent, office space to officially house the program, with plans to secure a location in the near future once the proper setting is found.

Previously, hearings for Bellows Falls restorative justice cases have been conducted by Cooney-Moore in the conference room at Parks Place on 44 School Street, and will continue to be held at the location on the first Tuesday of each month, until anew location is found. Cooney-Moore currently does all the paper work for the program at his home office.

"Generally speaking, there are three parts to the program, the current restorative board, the pre-charge program and we are now developing CoSA." Circles of Support and Accountability is a panel that assists people who are about to be released from jail. The program will help those folks have an easier transition back into society after their release, so they do not end up back in the same situation again.

Moving forward, Conney-Moore will continue to develop these programs as the search for a permanent restorative justice continues. There are also talks of a potential facility which would temporarily house those people re-entering society, as to assist them in becoming re-established in the community. Watch for an upcoming, follow up article as the justice programs continue to take shape.