St. Albans City – Locally, some curiosity existed about where the St. Albans Community Justice Center (CJC) would head as it reopened four years ago, during an economic crash.
However, under the direction of Marc Wennberg, and a dedicated staff and advisory board, the CJC has become part of Franklin County’s fabric.
“There is a willingness to work together, here,” Marc said, while seated in a meeting room at the CJC’s Catherine Street offices. “That is not true in every community.”
The CJC strives to build a safe, inclusive community, where all residents are accountable to each other, through the principles of restorative justice.
Restorative justice focuses on how crime affects relationships by involving victims, offenders and the community in a process where each has a voice. The goal is to acknowledge the harm, take responsibility, and make amends. Restorative also aims to curb recidivism.
The CJC’s new brochure, designed by St. Albans City resident Jack Tremblay, lists five core initiatives: reparative boards for St. Albans City and Town; a truancy program; offender re-entry; community mediation; and the parallel justice program, which provides direct services to crime victims.
A nine-person Citizen Advisory Board (CAB) guides the CJC, which also relies on 60 volunteers and a seven-person staff, with four full-time employees, to develop and implement its services.
“We couldn’t do what we do without our volunteers,” Marc said. “And it goes back to our name. We are a community justice center, and the center needs to have community involvement.”
The CJC directly deals with more than 400 clients, but its tangential effects are hard to quantify, Marc said. The CJC works with many local partners, including Northwest Counseling and Support Services, Voices Against Violence, schools, and the courts and state’s attorney’s office.
The CJC opened under the leadership of Liz Gamache, current St. Albans City mayor, in 2004, with $25,000 in state funds. After a one-year hiatus, the center reopened under Marc in February 2009. At the time, the CJC had 70 clients and a lone reparative board program.
The CJC operates with federal and state funds. “We are a project of St. Albans City, but we actually contribute to the General Fund through our grants,” Marc said.
Marc, 47, of Burlington, grew up in Waterbury, where he had childhood dreams of playing pro football, but Harwood Union High School doesn’t have a football team, so Marc wrestled and played soccer instead. He graduated in 1983.
Marc took a year off from college and traveled in Central America before he finished his education at Davidson College, in North Carolina. He earned a degree in Latin American studies – he is fluent in Spanish – in 1988. Marc has visited 25 countries and more than half the U.S. states in his travels.
Marc then directed a community center in coastal Davenport, Calif., where he worked with migrant farm workers until he returned to Vermont in 2004. A year later, he started working for Barre’s offender re-entry program.
“There’s a sense of newness and adventure every day when you travel,” he said. “In a sense, it helps you become more open to everything around you, and you appreciate home more when you come back.”