Vail Daily letter: Van Beek for sheriff |

Vail Daily letter: Van Beek for sheriff

Others have attested to James van Beek’s work history and how it has prepared him to become sheriff. My support is based upon his commitment to restorative justice, a way of viewing crime as more than breaking the law. Crime causes harm to individuals, relationships and the community. Restorative justice addresses that harm by seeking to remediate what has been done to the victim, his family, his neighborhood and his community. It also seeks to help the offender return to society as a productive, tax-paying citizen.

To paraphrase two noted experts on restorative justice (Howard Zehr and John Haley), crime is a violation of people and relationships. It creates obligations to make things right, involving the victim, the offender and the community in a mutual search for solutions which promote repair, reconciliation and reassurance. Further, it is a process through which remorseful offenders accept responsibility for their misconduct to those injured and to the community, In response, the community allows reintegration of the offender. As someone who has volunteered in the California prison system for nearly 10 years, I have become an advocate of the concept.

James’ commitment to restorative justice is evidenced by his serving as board chair of Survive!, a voluntary program for inmates at Eagle County’s Detention Center. As chairman, he has expanded its volunteer base; he has also initiated linkage of other nonprofit organizations into a formalized network to better serve the community in public/private partnerships. When I recently attended a Survive! orientation session, I learned that recidivism for the program’s graduates is 10 percent, as opposed to a national average of 75 percent after five years (National Institute of Justice).

Long conversations with James have convinced me of his ability to be a thoughtful decision-maker and to parse what is and what is not the domain of the sheriff’s department. Further, in my opinion, the respect which he exhibits toward ex-offenders is a good indication that he will respect every member of our community. I hope that his next job title will be “sheriff.”

Karin Weber


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