The Alberta Government is offering the legal system a bit of breathing room.

In order to help reduce the number of cases that enter the formal legal system, the provincial government is offering grants to support community-based initiatives that offer alternatives to visiting the court room.

The Alberta Community Justice Grant will help Albertans solve certain matters outside of the courtroom and within their community.

Under this grant, there is $1.2 million available in new one-time grants to help organizations and interest groups support their current community justice programs or create alternatives to the court system.

This grant is intended to help increase access to justice within a community setting that will be tailored to the specific need of the person they are trying to help.

"Community justice programs are a proven and innovative alternative to the formal court system. This grant will help community organizations explore and create innovative programming to provide even more options for Albertans accessing the justice system and help reduce pressure on the courts," stated the Minister of Justice and Attorney General Mickey Amery in a media release on January 30th.

With community justice, community members are involved with the decision-making and help generate ideas to address the root causes of the problem that caused the initial conflict in order to help resolve the situation outside the court room.

Community Justice also helps to build better and safer communities due to community involvement, prevention programs, and alternative approaches to administering justice. 

Eligible organizations and interest groups can apply for a grant ranging from $5000 to $25,000 and applications for the grant will be accepted from January 31st to February 29th.

Applicable organizations or interest groups must be based in Alberta and be either a registered not-for-profit organization or charity in good standing, a First Nation, Metis Nation of Alberta, or Metis Settlements, municipalities, and community groups with a designated fiscal agent.

An example of the type of organization that would qualify for the grant would be the Okotoks Youth Justice.

"We are a volunteer-based organization who work with RCMP in Okotoks and with Alberta Justice," explains Ted Beales, who is the Chairperson of Okotoks Youth Justice. "Youth under the age of 18 are referred to us, either, A, by the RCMP or by Alberta Justice via the parole officer."

From there, they meet the youth that got into trouble, but not enough trouble to go through the court system.

"Basically, what it is, is a second chance," explains Beales.

A panel involved with the Youth Justice will listen to the youth explain their side of story, and then usually administer either community service, a fine, or in some minor cases require the youth to write a letter of apology to the victims.

Once the youth completed their required punishment, the Youth Justice informs the RCMP and Alberta Justice that the minor has completed all of their tasks.

Because of this, the youth still have a clean record and learned that there are consequences to their actions.