Rotary of Leaside supports Urban Peace

Monday, May 3, 2004  By Town Crier Staff

A youth crime reduction program received a $15,000 shot in the arm recently when the Rotary Club of Toronto-Leaside announced a five-year, $15,000 commitment to help fund the program’s launch into the Downtown Toronto Youth Court.

The Pact Youth Crime Reduction Program has been running successfully out of the Metro East Youth Court in Scarborough for the past two years. And it has already begun its run at the courthouse at 311 Jarvis St.

The program deals with court backlogs and youth crime through an aboriginal victim/offender mediation process. Preliminary tracking numbers show a reduction in the young offender re-offense rate by 90 per cent.

PACT is an acronym for the process of Participation, Acknowledgment, Commitment and Transformation. It is designed to decrease the burden on the courts, while dramatically reducing youth crime by positively changing the behavioural patterns of young offenders who have been charged and convicted of criminal acts. The program fits well with the Rotary Club’s initiatives.

“As Rotarians, we must constantly work to help sustain a world of peace and humanity,” said James Dunn, president, Rotary Club of Toronto-Leaside. “With ongoing conflict in so many parts of the world, it’s important to take action at the community and club level to bring about Urban Peace. PACT provides an immense opportunity for Leaside Rotary and the community it serves.”

With the Rotary Club of Toronto-Leaside’s donation, PACT can help heal between 35 and 40 victims of youth crime, and deal effectively with 35-40 young offenders by getting to them early and eroding the foundation for criminal behaviour.

“A major component of safe communities includes grassroots-based action plans such as the Rotary Urban Peace Initiative, said Dan Cornacchia, co-founder, PACT Youth Crime Reduction Program. “The Rotary Club of Toronto-Leaside has shown solid leadership in terms of looking at holistic solutions for crime prevention and has helped PACT pave the way for a sustainably-funded downtown Toronto operation of youth advocacy and urban crime prevention.”

PACT includes three phases. In the Resolution phase a dialogue is initiated between the victim, offender, family, community and police. This exchange leads the offender through a process that shows how their behaviour have impacted others and how the act of taking responsibility can lead to healing the emotional wounds for everyone involved. The group decides on a set of actions which the offender agrees to follow. A legal contract is signed and monitored and may include an apology letter, community work, and/or financial compensation for the victim and the community.

The second phase involves counselling. It is offered to re-offenders and the most seriously traumatized victims. PACT utilizes the most effective methods and counselors to assist in the transformation of these individuals.

Phase three is used in situations that require ongoing help, and is geared towards the most serious young offenders. A young offender is assigned a personal coach whom they work with individually and in-group sessions for up to one year. The strategies for this phase have been derived from the best coaching programs in the world.