Restorative Justice made me a better Rodeo Clown!

My friend wanted to have a birthday around her bucket list item of getting on a mechanical bull.  So I helped by making a flyer, and rodeo numbers for party guests.  As the day approached, I teased someone I was gonna have “Happy Birthday” on my bloomers, so when I fell off the bull that would show.  We had a good laugh about that and somehow the joke that I would be the rodeo clown was born.  In 24 hours I had gathered things for an outfit, including a cowboy hat with curly rainbow clown hair!

At a nice place at the Mall of America, I went to the restroom as me, and emerged and Bandi the Rodeo Clown.  I got looks, and laughs, kids wanted to take pictures with me.

Someone asked me if I had been a clown before.  I guess my skills looked experienced.  As I reflected on this silly evening of fun, I recognized the parallels and contributions that being a Restorative Justice practitioner provided me!

Courage to be different.  It’s becoming more recognized that we need to address social-emotional learning in schools, and we need to address first-offenses differently.  We need to change the way we do business when it comes to changing behavior.  My work takes me alongside courts, human services, corrections, and approaching it from a very different model.  Asking what people need, where others ask what they deserve sets me apart sometimes.  Service providers are moving much closer to Restorative Justice, with trauma-informed work, needs assessment and services that consider how to help instead of just how to punish.

Tenacity.  If you watch the video, I try quite a few times.  Despite the obvious fact that stockings are way to slippery, I try to make a decent ride.  To keep a non-profit going, constant juggling of needs and priorities: board, finances, staff, services, marketing, grants, volunteers.  I keep the majority of Circles and maintain a caseload.

Emotional Climate.  I accidentally went right off the otherside on my first try to get on that bull, that is where the video starts.  I got a lot of laughs, so much so, later I intentionally go right over the top to make everyone laugh.  When teaching or training I usually share these two piece of wisdom:

A smile is the first stage of healing.

Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.

I didn’t invent those statements, I’ve just used them so much I don’t remember where I heard or learned them.  They have become the way I believe, live and act.

When Restorative Justice becomes part of the fiber of your being, you live the message.  Not perfectly, we are human.  It seems to me I lived out some of Restorative Justice when I did something for the relationship, and the manner in which I was Bandi.  You can see what you think!

 

 

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Creating Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circles how and why the relationship value question matters.

In Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle process, and every Circle facilitated by SCVRJP, we identify relationship values at the first round with the talking piece.This is extremely important and requires an understanding of how and why that is so important.  A teachable lesson emerged recently and can demonstrate why framing the question is so important.

Technique & How  

1) Ask people to identify a relationship. Hand out paper plates

2) Ask them to identify something really important in that relationship.  Avoid using the word “value”, you are going to go behind the social mask, by asking this indirectly.  Suggest what makes the relationship great, without it, it would not be the same.

3)Handout markers, asking them to write the word about that relationship on the plate.  Remind them of the non-judgmental context, lots of things make great relationships, to just pick one for today.  Getting again behind their own judgments or preparing what they think they “should” say.

4)Role model, go first, start the talking piece, place plates in the center.

Why

1) Brain connections – engage people in thoughts of loved ones stimulates brain chemicals to promote openness.

2)Indirect ask – - we all want to fit in and belong, we use social masks, our answer change if we are with our friends or our parents friends.  That’s good because that creates accountability and social norms.  We want to get to the heart of people in Circle, and using the approach reaches a more genuine context.

3) Relationships matter – asking about a specific relationship that the person has, reinforces the importance of relationships and brings in dialogue relvant to what really motivates our behaviors.

4)Topic matter is comfortable – everyone can easily share about someone they have a relationship with.  This promotes bonding and a successful first round with the talking piece.

Lesson

It was observed in Circle that the relationship/values questions was framed as “someone you find inspiring”.  Participants picked figures like Gandhi, very few people have a personal relationship with Gandhi, so this question eliminates the personal context of who and what is important in personal relationships.  The “someone” rather than a relationship leaves out the discussion of disclosing who is important to us.  By a de-personalized question, people can social mask it easier and pick a figure, vs an actual relationship.  The cross pollination of discovering others values on relationship values is lost with the question framed this way.  The question could still be utilized in Circle, however it might not be the most effective and developing values that the Circle can then commit to use for the rest of the process.

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Restorative Justice Storytelling for those harmed, hoping to heal, 3 goals and a story.

Developing the skill set for working with storytellers is one of the most crucial building blocks for developing a successful Restorative Justice program.  Stories are a key element in Restorative Justice Circles.  Having powerful storytellers . . . common everyday people who have experienced a trauma and have the ability to share that story in a way that is transformative for the teller and listener both.

1) Relationship to speakers.  Learn to hold people close and offer them guidelines for effective storytelling.  People who have stories of traffic fatalities, homicide, drug overdose, suicide or war have experienced LIFE changing events.  The trauma restructures and reorganizes the brain – ways people organize thoughts, think of the world express and allow love.  Be a support an ally.  Show them other speakers, affirm their existence, wisdom and authentic relationship to the topic they will be speaking about.  GUIDE them into telling the story (link to 53 blog posts) with 4 bases and 12 tips.

Teach people they are the expert in their story, encourage the “telling” and minimize the reading.  Believe in them more than anyone, even their own selves.  A speaker finished recently, apologize to me, nearly in tears for being “all over the place” in telling his story.  I hugged him, whispered in his ear “the courage to share is all you need”.

2)Be a LISTENER.  Listen to the person who has something to share.  Listen and listen and listen.  Meet and plan for them to share, just by meeting and discussing their story.  You have to hold, HAVE TO HOLD peace, love, compassion.  You can’t twinge, hide or respond with your needs (okay balance this with being real).  Know the person well and know their story, you will hear hours, and they will give 20 minutes of this story.  Affirm all of it, reflect back what is impactful and helpful.

3)Know the process.  At SCVRJP we use 4 bases Intro/Incident/Impact/Reflection.  This works so well.  I can explain it forward and backwards if I have to.  I have taught it, used it, heard it, felt it, lived it, observed it.  I can’t help speakers unless it is a part of me.  I need to have it understood and create an understanding that speakers and I can talk about these stages and help them when the story changes.  The story should change.  Restorative Justice storytelling is designed to be a living thing, the story can change with seasons, experiences and how the speaker is doing on that particular day.

The above comments relate to storytellers for a specific segment of Circle.  There is also encouraging storytelling when everyone in the Circle is asked to share.  I say lots of affirmations when building up to a storytelling round.  For example I might offer: “we are all experts in our own stories”, “we can all tell a story; just think of the begining, the middle and the end”.  It is especially important to tell stories at Circle Keeper Trainings.

One volunteer who attended several trainings, and several Circles with youth, where often we related stories was not fond of a technique I would use.  The technique was an egg timer, and asking people to share a story or to share for 3 minutes what was on their heart.  Caution: use when emotional climate is ready.

This volunteer recently shared how she started something for her Granddaughters, based on her experience with storytelling at SCVRJP.   She offered this after reminding me how much she disliked the egg timer activity.  She related seeing how her Granddaughters are growing up in a very different world.  She decided then each night to write a story of her or her Mothers so that one day, her Granddaughters will have a better understanding of Grandma and Great Grandma who they never met.  The volunteer attributed the ability to write these stories from her experience in Circle.

I told this story to my coworker . . . who said “I wish my Grandma would have done that”  to which I replied “I wish all Grandma’s would do that”.

 

 

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Finding your keepers heart, encouraging the heart of others.

It has been an emotional and powerful season of work.  A group of practitioners met to begin a deeper look at healing not only the incident of harm, but deeper wounds and trauma when additional deeper harm is present.  That means looking at differences in race, power, gender, any status differences between people participating.  Not everyone comes with an understanding of history and how past traumas do impact our present engagements.  Some spaces of open-hearted work for me included:

  • I opened up my work for examination, when I might not have had awareness to negotiate “it wasn’t racist” rejection of the emotional harm caused by behaviors.  I was challenged to hold the space for others that wanted to offer advice.  (this advice was RJ 101, and things I had of course done, but did not relate in the brief time I had to offer). The goal in the end was to find ways we might promote increased ‘restoration’ when working to repair harm.
  • I wept at the feet of a Native Elder, I apologized for the ways my ancestors treated hers.  I expressed my shame, apology and feelings for not deserving to be practice Circle wisdom.  She embraced me, hugged me, told me to keep going, that these things live in my heart.
  • I met a group of Veteran advocates and Veterans where they are home.  I rubbed my chin when they showed me the square table they use for Circle.  I could see that was important and significant to them.  We began the Circle Training, with that table, and then I asked them for permission to move it.  It was a powerful and significant training for Veteran work and Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle process.  I feel blessed it includes that story and demonstration of meeting Veterans and their advocates where they are.

I relate these 3 to demonstrate how to express having a Keepers Heart.  Being a Circle Keeper is trying to live and model the values and principles of Restorative Justice.  I have another list (twice as long) where I might have not carried the values and principles.  Being a Keeper is letting go of control, it is not facilitating a Circle, it is bringing a presence that promotes understanding, empathy, compassion, deep listening and healing.

I am so blessed to work with a wonderful and dynamic group of volunteers.  I have come to believe that our Restorative Justice Center success is based on the engagement of all these volunteers.  I have been watching and looking at them to discover as much as I can, to be able to relate and share with others hoping to create space for Restorative Justice in their own communities.

When we gather as volunteers, it is different, we are not working with those in Circle that have been referred for service.  We are able to discuss our intentions, our techniques, our success and our challenges.  I noticed a common theme . . . working on themselves to be better people.  I heard how Restorative Justice volunteering provides a challenge to be non-judgmental, to express caring and compassion.  It struck me . . . restorative humility . . . the understanding that I am not better than anyone else and by helping others, I can help myself. (click to tweetThose are my words to the concepts.  That is what I will continue to model and promote in others . . . the Keepers Heart is honest, courageous, humble and generous.

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Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle Training for Veteran Support.

Beginning January 15 and concluding on February 7, this blog will feature posts on applying Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle process to the support of Veterans, Veteran family members and community volunteers.  This area and application for supporting healing, reintegration and restorative justice principles has been in the works for me for years.  The first formal training is scheduled for February 10 & 11, 2014.  Please click here: Veterans Circle Training Feb 2014 for the flyer.  You can also save this pdf, and then email as an attachment.

To bring this training together, SCVRJP has partnered with a dynamic program  in Northern Minnesota, the Eagles Healing Nest.  For a story that aired on my birthday:  http://kstp.com/article/stories/s2953855.shtml and the Eagles Healing Nest Website: http://www.eagleshealingnest.com.

Join us for the training or consider arranging a training in your community!  If you have a program to feature, I would be happy to link to your program in the February 7 blog post.  Email me your questions of topics for the Restorative Justice Veterans Support blog features at scvrjp@gmail.com.

Thanks and have a Happy New Year!

 

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St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program offers Webinars for 2014.

There are 6 webinars scheduled, each will be 90 minutes, beginning at 4 pm CST.  This is a new venture for SCVRJP and we are exploring our webinar service, which will be announced in February, please register early!

Flyer: Webinars Kris Miner

Community-Based Restorative Justice

March 12th Engaging Stakeholders, developing programs, maintaining RJ integrity.

March 26th Volunteer management, community engagement, utilizing community needs.

 

School-Based Restorative Justice

May 14th Restorative measures, using & implementing a “Whole School” approach.

May 28th Use of Circles, application with PBIS, Circles at every tier.

 

Severe Crime Victim Offender Dialogue

June 4th Preparing parties, finding & responding to needs.

July 16th Utilizing listening & self-care while facilitating VOD.

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Funding for Restorative Justice, 6 tips and suggestions, from a decade old RJ program.

I was recently asked (blog comment) for references on grants for Restorative Justice at both the State and National levels.  I thought others might appreciate the information I could share on obtaining and maintain Restorative Justice funding (it’s not just about the grants).  Funding comes in 3 streams for non-profits, if your Restorative Justice program is not a non-profit, but a program you can still use these tips.  

The 3 ways of income are 1)fee for service/contract 2)grants and 3)donations/public support.   It can be challenging to compete for grant dollars these days, cuts in government funding has created more competition for grants.  Raising credibility so that programs are required and fee for services can be set, takes authentic and genuine relationship building.  It requires understanding systems, and creating RESTORATIVE programs that address community needs.  Challenges in defining and marketing your work need to be overcome in order to get the individual donated dollar.  It is not easy and it takes a great deal of work.  The following tips can help guide your efforts in raising revenue for staff and programs.

The first tip . . . use foundational Restorative Justice approaches in your grant/funding relationships!  That means, respect, relationship and responsibility.  Call the agencies you are looking to apply to.  Be clear in what you intend to do.  Study up, don’t ask for $500,000 from an organization that makes $5,000 grants.  Think from the others point of view.  I’m very passionate about Restorative Justice, and it can be hard to understand rejections.  Make a follow-up call, send a thank you letter for the response and opportunity to apply.  Seems counter-intuitive to your time, yet, it sets you up for role modeling the values of Restorative Justice!  Spend time building relationships, be respectful.

When applying for grants be very clear on what you intend to do, and how you will create the outcomes, the grantor is looking for.  Design your work to the mission and vision of Restorative Justice.  Frame your work as addressing public health issues, and demonstrate outcomes, specific changes your work will provide.  Don’t change or stretch so far you are grasping for cash and not doing REAL restorative justice work.

#2 – set your value and create multiple ways to pay.  You want services to be accessible, and if your program does diversion, you want equity in access.  That means that if a person can’t afford services, you need to create alternate forms of payment.  At SCVRJP we offer community service for payment, and you can attend Circles as part of community service.  We have set fees for service based on choices the offender has in the system.  For example it is $75 to reinstate your drivers license, and our Underage Consumption Class is $60.  Consider all the factors in setting your fees, speak to your partners.  We raised our prices and lost a referral agency, that cost us $10,000!

#3 Give back, I call it “pro bono” or “tithing”  I feel there is a certain amount that SCVRJP should do.  Over the years we have had to narrow down what we can do “pro bono”, so I offer scholarships on a case by case basis, rather than listed on every training sign up form.  We used to have programs that didn’t have a related funding, now all programs are connected to a specific funding stream.  We DO NOT charge victims, and no RJ program should do that, however, we have grants and fundraisers around those aspects of programs!  You create a certain amount of social equity in strong relationships, reaching out to others and yet is is VERY, VERY necessary to live within your means and budget, be mindful of what you ‘give away’.

#4 Don’t go out of your area for $.  Contracts for SCVRJP typically come in the forms of training.  Be cautious when chasing down this funding stream.  I have seen community providers of Restorative Justice go and train at schools, without any experience of School-based Restorative Justice.  It is not just transferrable to teach teachers how to do a victim-offender conference.  It is necessary to work and train on what you have an expertise or understanding of.  Rushing ahead and training on Restorative Justice, regardless of your understanding and experience actually sets implementation back than moving it ahead.  For the greater good of the movement itself, find a credible and be credible in trainings and contracts.  It will help the field itself if contracts are delivered in a way that RESULTS happen.

#5 Budget wisely, use diverse leadership.  SCVRJP has been blessed, we have grown from a budget of $20,000 – - to $180,000.  It takes a great deal of dedicated work.  I literally put in the hours of a small business owner to make it work.  I put in the long hours, but I didn’t do it alone, consultation and support of board members has made SCVRJP successful.  Difficult decisions need to be made, you will be surprised what you can learn to do with less.  We had to cut the snacks, at Circle (yet I know fundamentally you serve food) we also cut our janitor services, and have to take turns cleaning our office.  You share in the responsibility of earning and spending money – from upper level board members to all staff knowing the financial status of your organization.

#6 Be fearless and real.  A few years ago, I told myself, when SCVRJP got into using our “reserve” funds, I was going to look for another job.  That MIGHT have been a full 3 years ago.  At this point I can’t imagine doing anything else, despite SCVRJP not have a specific account of “reserve funds”.  I don’t know what the future holds, I know it might look very different for SCVRJP.  A major funder has put us on notice, we are hopeful to create a new business plan.  I will keep applying the tips i’ve outlined.

If this blog post has been helpful . . . please consider a donation to SCVRJP!

 

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Restorative Justice Circles address suffering by promoting story-sharing.

Transformation is always an opportunity in front of us.  Even with the best of intentions in the other person, our feelings are going to get hurt, there will be miscommunications, conflicts, disagreements.  As I ended a phone call, with someone disheartened by a conflict, I said “soon, we will be looking back on this and laughing about what we learned”  she sighed “I hope so”.  As a facilitator and Restorative Justice being, helping support and promote transformation take overt and covert statements and gestures!

I think have a post it note here, I think it was Brene Brown:

The Work of the soul . . . to transform suffering into something . . . LIFE GIVING . . . from a great loss to a great opening.

I believe we can do part of this kind of soul work, as we participate in Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circles.  The kinds of Circles that create an intentional container, use values, talking piece, stories, ceremony to bring people together to transform.

Transformation can happen for each and every person that fully engages in a RJ Peacemaking Circle.  I work very hard to help support all of our volunteers 3-5 per Circle in understanding, role modeling and sharing in ways that promote transformation.

When the Community Mentors in Circle open up and share inner strength and wisdom it helps others access their own.  We suggest our volunteers don’t tell others what to think, say or do . . . they relate a story to the Center of the Circle.  Those stories shared with openness, not directed, are more accepted by others.

For all in Circle, the harmed, the harmer the community mentor, in a togetherness created by Circle, we can address suffering.  Everyone speaks to the Center, everyone connects to the topic or question on the talking pieced.  This creates the oneness.  The individual opportunity is what you share about.  Opportunity exists to talk about life events in ways that demonstrate how   they opened us up to be more alive, to be more towards love and to find out how it made us, shaped us or changed us.

For example, in an underage consumption Circle, a community mentor shared the following story.  As a probation agent of 35 years (retired several years now), he had a case where two high school boys, good friends, good kids, athletes . . . had been out drinking, and the driver went off the road, hit a tree and the passenger was killed.  He talked about how hard these cases were, because the victim side would want punishment at a level that it was a very intentional act, and the side around the offender, felt the offender was suffering enough.  The story share, went on to reveal that when the time came, the probation officer was nervous, going in front of a Judge who used to give long prison sentences for this type of offense.  When he testified the probation agent got tears in his eyes for the situation and recommended a long probation time and a shorter jail time.  The Judge went with the probation officers recommendation.  The story went on . . . the retired probation agent, went to the Judges 90 year birthday party in the nursing home.  The Judge brought up the the case, the probation agent getting teary eyed and the power that had on the Judge going with the sentence recommended by probation.

That story combined with our curriculum, powerfully related how choices have a ripple effect.  Clearly the probation agent suffered a bit in that situation, and similar ones like it and he had many with 35 years of being an agent.  We later talked and he called them “capsulated stories”.  I got the visual of these floating around inside of him, waiting to come to the surface like bubbles.  Restorative Justice Circles, help community support community by transforming the suffering of the victim, the offender and the community.

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Restorative Justice listening . . . to bare witness.

That is an intentional typo.  I’m going to try to explain the kind of listening that works best in Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circles.  Not listening to respond, not active listening so you can reframe and respond.  The kind of listening that is free of judgement.  Listening that could be called ‘bearing witness’ to another person.  What does to bear witness mean?

I got to explore this with a small group of volunteers we were working on their skills to become Cirlcekeepers at SCVRJP.  I used a volunteer behavior to make my point.  A great listener, yet and responder in a verbal Mmmm, when he hears something he really understands.  Great in any other setting.  In the context of listening in Circle, we ask that all judgement be removed from Circle.  Judgements that are positive and also those that are negative.  Even when we toss in an affirmation of Mmmm, we aren’t honoring the talking piece.

The role of the person without the talking piece is to understand the other talking.  That includes refrain from judgement.  That includes hearing the whole share of a person.  I believe (informed by many, many experiences) that when we listen without those judgements, the speaker finds a way to their deep, inner truth, and beings to speak to their solutions.  I was doing a presentation and a few in the audience had been in Circle.  A young man stood up and offered that when you share in Circle, you learn about yourself, you find out who you are in what you say.

Our training group really explored this topic.  Someone realized that a head nod, means “I heard you, now move on”.  Someone else shared frustration when speaking to someone who is agreeing with you, but knowing that they don’t really understand what they say they are agreeing to.

In my head, I’, running what ‘nay-sayers’ might think of this post.  That is not judgement free.  What I need to share, is that we do more in Circle, once people are listened to in this very deep, personal way, an openness to understanding, new ideas, deeper empathy and compassion can emerge.  To get to a deep place, a deep connection, this type of listening is necessary.

In training sessions, I work hard to give the deep connected experience of Circle.  If you are going to be Keeping effective and powerful Circles, it is important to really understand the fundamental things, like the power of the talking piece, and the role of it being much, much deeper than to simply dictate who is speaking.

The bare over bear.  Metaphorically bare of your own need to comment, bare of your own judgement, bare of anything to fully receive and understand another human being.  I do think we see the actions of others through the lens of our own experiences.  We need to understand others (different that see others).  The empathy we create in Circle by being bare listeners, creates a new level and energy of empathy that others can receive.  I hope you will give this kind of energy a try.

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