I saw RJ in “Nights in Rodanthe”

If you haven’t seen it yet . . . don’t read this post!  If you have seen it, I’d be curious to know if you see the storylines matching up to RJ . . . like I did.

Let me briefly explain.  Richard Gere’s character is a Dr, who had a patient die on his table.  Gere is in Rodanthe after the patients husband extended an invitation to visit (while a law suit was also pending).  Gere isn’t exactly on the mark the first time he meets with the husband.  Diane Lane’s character explains to Gere that the husband is “still in back in the room” where it happened.  She points out that the husband and Gere are tied together, since Gere is the last person to see the wife.  This reminded me of how an incident of crime tie a victim and an offender together.  Lane’s character also explains to Gere that the husband needs Gere to know who she was.

A powerful scene occurs between the husband and Gere, with Lane and the deceased’s son sitting outside.  I saw this as community members supporting the process.  Being there while the two involved with the incident exchange information.  They listened to each other (just like RJ).  Husband needed to share the essence of who his wife was, to make her a person to Gere.  Gere made a sincere and heartfelt apology.  RJ is not about the “sorry”, it’s about “making things right”.  In the case of this movie, what Gere needed to do to “make things right” was to sit and listen to the husband.  Often times Restorative Justice provides this kind freedom for victim & offenders.  The very act of being listened to, listened to about the harm, seeing in a person that harmed you, honestly and openly remorseful.  You can see when a “light” goes on in another.  The graciousness of listening often times, helps heal the harm. 

In the movie, Gere was a changed man after meeting with the husband.  He was then able to move into a better space with his own son.  Often the case, when we heal a part of ourselves, it moves to other parts of our lives as well.

A real tear jerker, a great love story, not a bad way for me to spend $8, a Saturday night, time with my friend Deb.  But . . . seeing RJ on the big screen . . . priceless.  Thanks for that cliche MasterCard!

Tip of the Week – Talking Pieces

I had a student approach me and comment on the 14 pages in Kay Pranis’s book “Peacemaking Circles” dedicated to the talking piece.  It was a good reminder for me.  I have gathered a variety of talking pieces and my favorites are the ones that other people give me.  Introducing a talking piece is a great opportunity to role model sharing.  I have found pieces from nature to be calming.  I like palm size or easily held with one hand.  If you know me, you know I love my rocks as talking pieces.

Keep your eyes and heart open to a new piece, see what the piece brings out in Circle.  A good talking piece can often be the subject of a getting acquainted round.  I like to remind people if they are wanting to pass, to just take a moment and hold the piece and consider moving from head to heart.  Checking in with the heart to make sure there is really nothing to say.

Leave a comment about your favorite talking piece!

Comments on Attending a SCVRJP Program

Please let us know what program you attended and what your thought about attending and participating.

Victim Impact Panels – providing first hand accounts of the harm that drinking and driving has caused.

Underage Consumption Panels – Circle process, using harm reduction CHOICES program.

Victim Offender – Conferencing – a process to repair harm and make things right

Victim Empathy Seminar – Circles with multiple offenders, community members and a focus on victim empathy

Safe Teen Driving Circles – preventing harm and promoting safety on the roads

Circle Training – two-days of keeper training

Workshop, Class or Presentation presented by Kris Miner

Guest Blogging Invitation

Do you have a Restorative Justice Story?  Have you grown or learned from keeping Circles or facilitating a Restorative Justice process?

I want to invite YOU to do a blog post here.  Just send me a word document and I can cut and paste in your post.  It’s been fun for me since I started this, I experience things in my life, with wanting to remember to blog about them.

All we really have is story, it’s all stories.  I love the line . . . it’s not what happens to us, but what we tell ourselves about it.  So tell the world a Circle story!


All relationships are bilateral

I use this statement about restorative justice, since RJ is so much about the relationships.  All relationships flow both ways.  I believe what we put into the flow comes back to us.

I learned a great deal from someone lately.  I didn’t expect to be so educated or enlightened by this person.  I felt like I was making more of a “courtesy visit”.  The experience reinforced and validated the core truth I have:  All relationships are bilateral.

I met with a prison inmate, he’s served 14 years and he has 19 to go.  He was part of a violent and brutal crime, far beyond what any family should experience.  His father died when he was young, his family abandoned him when he went to prison.  His mother died in 2003.  He’s got no visitors, no support system.  It seemed to me he had every reason to be bitter, hopeless, mean.  Instead . . . he is still impacted by a restorative justice circle that he attended in 2002.  There is a DVD by Newist called Repairing Harm.  Review or purchase on this video you can see the program run by Janine Geske, Marquette Restorative Justice.

When talking about the Restorative Justice Circle that involved storytelling by victim/survivors, the inmate described hearing about the victims trauma and realizing, victim or offender trauma is trauma.  He talked about a lack of emotional connection to his crime, until he heard the victims speak.  He had read Howard Zehrs book, Changing Lenses.  He wanted to know why I was doing Restorative Justice.  It was a moving conversation.  When I talked about story telling, and how trauma causes our brains to slow down and take snapshots or a slide show, and it is these slides that we talk about in telling the story.  He quicky identified with that.  He remembered, the victim/survivor telling a small detail that had a huge impact.  He shared some of the snapshots from his own crime.  When stories contain snapshots, people can talk about things 14 years old, like they happened this morning.

Whenever I go into prisons, I can’t help but impacted by the security process.  Going thru a metal detector, locking up my keys, leaving everything in my car.  Getting my hand stamped and having to prove I didn’t change identies on the way back out.  It’s a process that does leave me concerned about my own safety, when I had to remove my bra, and go thru the metal detector AGAIN, I was really wondering what I got myself into.  The clang of metal doors, the institutional smell.  The staff saying “Are you okay alone in here” as I was in a large room with the inmate, I had only just shook hands and exchanged names.  Honestly I said “yes” more of wanting to be a humanitarian to the person I was meeting with.  The staff might have picked up my pause, she said a guard could be outside the door.  I said “no”.

The PERSON I met with was well groomed, genuine, conversational.  He was so deeply moved by that Restorative Justice Circle, it completely grounded me in what I know and believe about Circles.  Not to mention that 6 years have gone by.  He was still looking to move forward with what he learned.  He wrote a letter to a former social worker, expressing an interest in helping others and RJ.  The social worker then provided him my name and address.  He wants to be involved in Restorative Justice and understands the process is victim centered and we can only do so much right now, the victims come first.  He has agreed to work on his own healing and learning more about Restorative Justice.  I am going to write him one time a month, the first letter with reading list.

I left the prison with a shocked feeling, but also a calm and somewhat confused sense of what just happened.  It was good to interact with a person seeking greater good for himself and others.  It was sad and scary to have the crime details explained.  It enhanced my professional and personal skills, it added to me as a person.  Who would have ever guessed that from 14 year vetran of the WI Correctional System.

Presence in Circle

Based on the work of Mark Umbriet, PhD Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking http://rjp.umn.edu/about/staff_associates/umbreit.html .  Three SCVRJP volunteers and myself have had the opportunity to complete the 6 day training offered by the Center, this has been very valuable in understanding severe trauma and aspects of victim offender dialogue.  This website is full of excellent articles, pdf’s, trainings and links.

What I wanted to focus on in this post is the “art” of being fully present in Circle.  I cover this in my training and want to elaborate on my interpretation of these four concepts.

-Being Centered – For me this means I’ve gotten my spiritual connection in place.  I can be a hot air balloon, going where the breeze takes me.  Some might say a steam roller with no driver!  Anyway, when I am centered that means I am able to be where I am.  I am connected to my heart space and able to fully “be” with another or a Circle of people.

-Being Connected to Values & Highest Purpose – We all live on a continuum of connectedness to our values.  When I am providing my daughter a listening space and we are chatting in the dark, I feel connected to my value of nurturing.  I have a value of respect and when I speak harshly about a person or situation, I’m disconnected to that value.  One I have to know my values and two I have experience what it is like to be connected, firmly connected to that value.  That is what makes each of us unique, how we connect and demonstrate our values.

     Highest Purpose – – purpose and potential, let’s just always be on task to reaching that in each of us and aspiring to let others know when they are demonstrating connections to their own.  Finding your highest purpose means believing in something greater than us all.  Again, my interpretation of Dr. Umbriet’s list.

-Connected to humanity of clients – When training or talking about Restorative Justice, I use a picture of my Dad, with the caption “We all Walk on Common Ground”.  Sorry I can’t remember where I heard that.  Basically I explain my fathers demographics and then I talk about some of Donald Trumps demographics.  Then I explain both men know how it feels to worry about their children, or fight with their wife.  We all walk on common ground, we are all connected by this experience of being human.  That is connecting to the humanity of another person (victim or offender).

-Being Congruent – This could simply be stated “walk the talk”.  Seeing incongruities is easy, I’ll never forget seeing a large group of smokers outside of a national PREVENTION conference.  The example I use in training is from an experience I had almost 16 years ago.  I volunteered at a woman’s shelter.  Our director at the time invited me to go out drinking with her.  I thought that was a boundary issue.  The next red flag came when she was in a fight at a gas station!  Apparently someone had cut her off pulling up to a gas pump, then the middle finger, followed by verbal and physical aggression!  From our shelter director!?  That was a lesson to my in living with integrity.  I might appear judgement, but I think if you are working for a cause then you should role model that.

Take time to read some of Mark Umbriets work and do some interpreting of your own, post a comment if you have something to add.

Talking RJ with Schools

  It is great when schools seek me out to help with Restorative Justice implementation and training.  It’s not always the case.  I try to get more involvement from my area schools, so I knock on doors, meet with new principals and try to make the case to bring in RJ.  I’ve got some reflections for those of you who might be trying to do the same thing.

Be careful in your approach – I used to start the discussion about how RJ reduces suspensions and expulsions.  That is one outcome of RJ in schools, but I found individuals dismissing me.  The formal mindset was still in place.  The few student that did get expelled “they deserved it”.  I was asking schools to redefine the entire school culture, for a few students, that caused a great deal of time and trouble.  Not the best approach.  Now I talk about student learning and achievement increasing.  The whole school approach outcomes.  Brenda Morrison’s book Restoring Safe School Communities is an excellent resource.

Rj language to school language – schools can dismiss the notion of victim, offender, community.  So much of the focus on negative behavior happens as a violation of the school rules.  Victims are often (not always) overlooked, and secondary victims, are really seldom identified.  I talk about the American Psychological Association’s study on school discipline:

APA Zero Tolerance, February 2001   Recommendation:

RESOLVED, that the American Bar Association supports the following principles concerning school discipline:


  1. schools should have strong policies against gun possession and be safe places for students to learn and develop;

2.  in cases involving alleged student misbehavior, school officials should exercise sound discretion that is consistent with principles of due process and considers the individual student and the particular circumstances of misconduct; and

3.  alternatives to expulsion or referral for prosecution should be developed that will improve student behavior and school climate without making schools dangerous; and


FURTHER RESOLVED, that the ABA opposes, in principle, “zero tolerance” policies that have a discriminatory effect, or mandate either expulsion or referral of students to juvenile or criminal court, without regard to the circumstances or nature of the offense or the student’s history.

The APA report states that Zero Tolerance does not work!  It recommends using other options and suggests Restorative Justice as one of those.  The three levels of intervention are suggested and finding ways for staff to reconnect alienated youth.

Give examples We were “lucky” in a odd an unfortunate sense.  One of our board members was also an assistant principal.  His house was egged and he and his wife agreed to participate in a Restorative Justice Conference.  It was early on the SCVRJP history that this happened, this board member had to leave our board, but in his role at the school he made several case referrals.  This was the start of our school involvement.  These cases gave me situations to share with other schools.

Now I can list off schools and districts that have worked in Restorative Justice.  I was also with Sally Wolf when she got the call that the Chicago School District decided to leave zero tolerance and move toward Restorative Justice.  I have emailed back and forth with staff in Denver, who were part of that districts move towards RJ.  These are not small school systems! 

I have to talk about MN leading the way, last I heard 32% of their schools were using RJ!  They’ve trained 20,000 people.  Check out Restorative Measures, a pdf developed in ’97 before the power of Circles in Schools was utilized.  Nancy Riestenberg and the MN Dept of Education have some great articles and resources for schools.  Here is one of Nancy’s powerpoints riestenber_restorative-measures.

My friends at the Central Michigan Restorative Justice Initiative have a great video about RJ in schools.  You can read there annual report for data, and I can’t wait to meet them in Toronto at the IIRP International RJ Conference.

If your school is interested in implementing RJ, give me a call and we can talk about steps to take in moving ahead.


SCVRJP recieves MADD award

Madd Wisconin held a Statewide Award Ceremony.  This years theme: No one who achieves success does so without the help of others.

SCVRJP was one of the evenings award recipients.  I was able to attend since I had a training the very next morning in Green Bay.  I felt so fortunate that attending with me was one of our volunteer speakers and her parents.  I’m going to have to start telling people about the blog, and asking permission to be mentioned!

I made a prison visit before getting to my hotel, my three compainons had arrived shortly before I got there.  They had a gift for me, a cute little plant with pink flowers.  I blurted out “I hope I can keep it alive”.  I still haven’t mastered thinking before speaking!  We all got “dressed up” and headed to the Osh Kosh campus.  We got to file in with officers gathering, and I like to see our law enforcement out and about, all the uniforms gave the evening a special feeling. 

The room was elegant with violins playing and hor durves circulating.  We giggled with some people at the punch bowl, when some teased about spiked punch at a MADD event.  I bid on the silent auction candles and jewlry, but got my friend to cover the candles for me.  We picked a table at the front of the room.  I wanted to sit by a chocolate souffle looking dessert.  That was mostly the reason we sat where we did.  We discovered not caring much for the brie and crackers.

The program began with the State Patrol Honor Guard.  I almost teared up, the men did such a nice job of presenting the colors.  It set the tone as we all said the Pledge of Allegiance together.  Dinner was good, my chocolate soufflee was a bust.  More of a brownie overbaked in a custard cup.  A comment by someone else was “it tastes like something I’ve eaten before, but I don’t know what”.  I found that funny.

We were second to get an award, I lost a word in my “thank you speech”.  I froze!  I wanted to say “when we do prevention and intervention . . . I blanked on the word “intervention”.  So here I was at the mike, completely tongue tied, and trying to say something that was motivating and it wasn’t even making sense!  I got my introduction to the co-accept-er with me.  She did fine, and we got back to our seats.

The actual award is really cool!  Small marble base, and etched glass.  I like it alot.  The award categories that followed included: media, concerned citizens, public policy, criminal justice, victim outreach, law enforcement for individuals and agencies.

Before each award a little bit was read to the audience.  After hearing the story for the Victim Outreach award, I bolted from my chair to start a standing ovation, the room quickly followed.  The story was that this particular officer responded to a crash scene.  He had to crawl under the car and hold the head of a person inside, allowing the person to breath and not be in muddle puddle.  After 45 minutes the person literally died in the officers hands.  Deputy Daniel G. McCann, looked back on stage and you could see he didn’t expect the standing ovation.  Then he went to the mike, and I remember him saying:  “Thank you, but I didn’t do anything that anyone else in this room wouldn’t have done.  I was on duty and I just did my job that day.  I come from a family of medical people and helpers”.  That struck me!  How wonderful a view of humanity that he thinks we all would have done what he did.  I would like to think that I would, and I would hope someone would do that for me.  It was very moving.

The entire program was very good.  It reinforces how much work we have to do in WI, being ranked the worst state by MADD!  I think that MN & WI are the only states that DON’T allow sobriety checkpoints.  That needs to change.  WI is the ONLY state that has your first OWI as a traffic, not criminal violation.  It would help if we increased the penalties – – and I’m RESTORATIVE JUSTICE fanatic, saying “increase penalties”!

I heard a presenter say that “No one gets in the paper, without lots of hard work”.  I need to go do a press release about the MADD Award.  It was alot of hard work and it continues to be, I’m just so grateful to our volunteer speakers.  Without people willing to share their story, again and again, we wouldn’t have a program that attempts to “change behavior, by a change of heart”.

Why I love training, teaching and facilitating workshops

The great people at CESA 7, Chris and Amy recently hosted another Restorative Justice training.  A one-day overview of Restorative Justice in schools was held in Green Bay.  Together 18 of us took a good look into the philosophy and background of Restorative Justice in Schools.  We did a demonstration Circle, my favorite part of learning about people.

I got to be amazed, (and I love being amazed) by the power of the first few stages in a Circle.  I could feel it in the air when I started introducing the concepts, and we started writing values on paper plates.  There is an uneasy or apprehensive sense.  I wait until we’ve had the round of committing to the values, then I talk about how we might be feeling uncomfortable, but that’s okay, because to learn something new, or change, we are out of our comfort zone.  Or something very similar, it depends on the group.

At the end of the Circle, when people were reflecting on the process, three people were very open that they didn’t know what to think at first, but found they really liked it.  One valuable comment was that it was easy to see how the students might feel, after sitting in a Circle.

We did a simple round on “Tell me about your name, who were you named after, what do you know about your name, what do you think of your name?”  We heard some terrific stories.  We heard about native names, changed names, stories about being named and even how one name was purchased.  Long names cost more and Irish people dropped “O’s”.  This is when I feel Circle slow down, I start to cherish the time we are taking to listen to each person.  Lewis Mehl-Madrona  author of several books on healing and story telling, emphasized in a workshop that I attended that when we know someone’s story, they are a part of us forever.  We remember the story, our brains, chunk information togheter.

Training and teaching brings me in Circle with people I might not otherwise meet.  I really like what others bring to my life.  It builds those connections.  When I was at the Bruce Springsteen Concert at the X-cel energy center in St. Paul.  I looked at the crowd, and wondered if by the time I die, could I meet this many people in Circle.  What a crazy, odd thought.  Being in Circle is aligned with who I am and how I make a difference in this world.


I LOVE . . . 1. Being in Circle     2. Networking     3. “aha” moments     4. change and transformation

Training for SCVRJP became a program in 2007, before that I would present at conferences and offer volunteer trainings locally.  The local trainings started bringing in people from across the state.  It’s really fun for me to know Carol, Paul and Evelyn from seperate Circle trainings and they all know each other.  I love training for the networking.  At the most recent training I got a “Kristin, says Hi”, and we chatted about the people at the Manitowac school I trained at (and several staff attended an earlier CESA training). 

At the MADD Awards Banquet, two different officers remembered me from speaking at two different workshops.  The first one that said hello to me, also said that when he saw “Restorative Justice” in the program, he thought it must be me.  I then remembered his face and where he was at in the room.  He seemed kinda shocked at that, and complimented my good memory.  I liked his reaction to me remembering him, I bet that made him feel good.  I thought another officer looked familiar, and he mentioned hearing me at the Traffic and Impaired Driving Law Conference.  I said “yes, you were in the middle of the room”.  Having them feel good about me remembering, made me feel good.

I need to work more on my networking.  I called my mentor Jermaine Davis, he’s always full of ideas, suggestions, care and concern for me and my public speaking dreams.  I told Jermaine how I get people asking me to come and speak at their conference, or come train at their schools and I don’t hear back.  I kind of new the answer after I heard it.  He told me to get their cards!  To follow up with them, like I couldn’t have figured that out!  So now I will be working on my TOMA, so bring your business card to the next training, I’m going to ask you for it!  By the way TOMA – Top Of Mind Awareness.  I want you to think about me for your next training or workshop!

“Aha” moments– this is when I see a face light up, or a strong nod in agreement.  On of my favorites is explaining Thich Nhat Hanh’s definition of violence (anything that violates the integrity of another person).  I then team that with James Garbino’s statement “Exclusion is a form of violence”.  I also make statements “There is nothing new under the sun”, and “Be yourself only better”.  The “aha” moments are like awakening people to the innate wisdom or core truths.  The things we already know are true.  I love doing that.

The final item I love about training and teaching is the reward that comes later.  I’ve gotten feedback about parents giving staff talking pieces.  Wow, that school sought out doing Circles, and I helped them.  Now a Mom out there feels greatful enough to give a gift.  Another school has eliminated the “naughty room” a place to send misbehaving students.  One teacher did a quick hallway circle, she forgot community members, but positively said “I’ll never do that again”.  I’ve had emails about family Circles improving communication.  Connections and training techniques duplicated and producing powerful results.

Right now I have to thank my favorite Circle teachers, for helping me bring this to others.