Judge Hunter's program benefits North Hastings communities 0
Now in its seventeenth year, a special dream of Ontario Court of Justice Judge Stephen Hunter is again dispersing money into the North Hastings community for projects to assist victims of crime, and for crime prevention.
Hunter decided in 1995 to try and figure out a way to give offenders in his Bancroft court the option of donating money to a community justice fund as part of their sentence. A publicly accountable board of local citizens was established to administer the funds, and disperse the funds in the community.
In 1997 the Community Justice Fund of North Hastings was incorporated, and has been dispersing grants to the community ever since.
A similar project also exists in Hunter's court in Belleville.
When contacted recently, Hunter said, "I looked at the crimes committed in North Hastings, and their consequences in the community. I wanted to see a holistic approach to sentencing that would also help address the needs of victims by supporting existing community services that need help, or services that do not presently exist."
Hunter explains the fund to the offender appearing before him in court, and the offender is asked to make a donation as part of their sentence. The donation would then become part of the sentencing order.
"Many offenders find this is a way to help them reconcile with the community," said Hunter. "I am very pleased with the very worthwhile projects undertaken in North Hastings, and how it is helping the community."
From time to time Hunter is asked to sit in other communities as a judge, and when he talks about his local project the response is often, "Wow. We should do something like that here."
Sarah Phoenix, executive director of Maggie's Resource Centre echoed Hunters comments.
Her work often takes her to other towns and court jurisdictions, and she has heard comments about Hunters initiative such as, "That's amazing what you have in Hastings County."
Phoenix is a member of the Community Justice Fund board in North Hastings. She pointed out that many diverse projects are supported with the collected funds. These include support for local youth at risk. Through no fault of their own, youth are at risk due to circumstances in their homes and lives.
Women and children at high risk due to domestic violence are often left with little money, support, or even a place to live in the short term. "This fund has had a huge impact on the communities ability to help women remove the barriers and risk in leaving abusive relationships," she said.
Women and men who have been victimized can be in crisis, need transportation, and even food.
"Some projects have focused on education, and prevention," she said.
The Community Justice Fund has just announced that a sum of $9,500 is now currently available for disbursement, and invites proposals from the community for projects. A committee of community persons is presently being put together to review submitted proposals.
Applications for grants must be submitted by May 31 to be considered, and successful applicants will be notified in early June.
Information about the fund and the application process can be obtained by sending an e-mail to the Community Justice Fund at firstname.lastname@example.org.