New Central Virginia nonprofit providing an alternative to the court room

Central Virginia Community Justice (CVCJ) grew out of a pilot program and is now providing people with an alternative to the courtroom.
Published: May. 16, 2023 at 4:44 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A new nonprofit is working to spread the word about its work in Central Virginia.

Central Virginia Community Justice (CVCJ) grew out of a pilot program and is now providing people with an alternative to the courtroom.

“There are too many people in the legal system that look like me that are caught up, and I just want them to know that there are other ways to handle the cases other than punitive. There’s other ways to go about it, and there’s other ways to heal,” CVCJ Facilitator Bianca Johnson said.

CVCJ has a different way of handling cases. Instead of going to the courtroom, a solution is facilitated through conversation.

“Restorative justice is a way to address harm that isn’t punitive. It puts the needs of the person that was harmed first, and they get to kind of make the choice and how the person that caused harm gets to make things right,” Johnson said.

CVCJ has handled cases ranging from hit and runs to employee theft and assault and battery. Since the start of the pilot program, CVCJ has had almost 20 cases end in a successful restorative conference.

“To me, this just feels like a way to offer more choice to people who’ve been harmed in some way, and let them have the control of how they want it to be handled,” CVCJ Co-director Ashley Cinalli-Mathews said.

Cinalli-Mathews says one of the first cases CVCJ handled involved someone accidentally shooting into a home while hunting. The parties had been waiting for months to have their first hearing, unable to speak to one another.

Then the organization got involved.

“The entire case was wrapped up for them within a month, and the folks on either side really came together and made a connection, were able to understand where each other was coming from,” Cinalli-Mathews said.

Right now, CVCJ works with the Charlottesville and Albemarle Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office. In the future, it hopes to expand to more counties and into schools.

“I would love to see it woven into other areas such as our school systems, employee relations in different businesses, of course, a priority within our court systems and then also community folks that aren’t necessarily comfortable going the court system route to know that, you know, they can trust us to help handle the harm as well,” Johnson said.

CVCJ is looking for three things: awareness, more facilitators, and donations.

If you would like to learn more about the nonprofit, more information is available here.

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