Restorative Justice relationships are different than other relationships.

Full disclosure:  I’m reacting to some recent events.  I am posting to provide a lesson to all of us.  In this post we will dive into differences in a Restorative Relationship and that of a Criminal Justice “service” relationship (probation officer, social worker, jail staff, therapist, attorney, prison guard, prosecutor).

Imagine someone judges you as “unprofessional”, lets call this “Person A”.  Instead of “Person A” talking to you, they tell your supervisor.  The supervisor instead of talking to you, tells your other supervisors. 

You have no direct communication with “Person A” .  “Person A” is not redirected by a supervisor to have a discussion with you.  The supervisor who took the complaint from “Person A” doesn’t talk with you.  The task is delegated to another supervisor.

What do you do?”

The world would be a wonderful place if we were all operating from and with restorative justice principles

1.) Be given the chance to explain what happened?

2.) Given the chance to hear (listening) how we impact others.

3.) Given the chance to share (speaking)  how others impact us.

Restorative Justice Relationships.  Restorative Justice is about building relationships and repairing harm to relationships.  Another key aspect is accountability.  Restoratively, you cannot hold someone accountable if you don’t have a relationship.

How do you build relationships?  You have conversations.  Conversations are simply speaking and listening. 

Restorative Justice is based on respect.  How do you treat someone with respect?  You treat them as a equal.  You have conversations that demonstrate you are human being, equal worth and value as the human being you are with.  Service professionals in the Criminal Justice system – are not afforded the ability to be AS equal as those of us in Restorative Justice.  Why?  Empathy development, for one. 

For exmaple: The act of empathy is not the role of the prosecutor.  Teaching empathy and motivating people towards understanding how they impact others.  That is the role of the restorative justice professional. 

What about a probation agent?   The primary goal and focus is accountability and assisting another in fullfilling a court order, monitoring compliance.  Would that be as effective if the agent mentioned what happened in their day?  I don’t think so, but I don’t know.

What I do know is Restorative Justice.  I do know that we build healthy connections with the those we work with.  Relationship mean conversation.  Conversations about our Restorative Justice goals – moving towards a conference, practice of a story or participation in a Circle.  Also conversation about ourselves and our own lives.  Restorative Justice professionals walk a fine line and develop skills around good boundaries and good connections.  Because Restorative Justice providers also role model being human.  We keep conversation going by starting with small talk.  We establish rapport.  Building and establishing rapport means being on the same wavelength.  You might discuss an event in your life or share your feelings.  Rapport is used by salesman and mental health therapists.  I googled ‘establishing rapport’ and got 237,000 options.

When I teach teachers about school-based restorative justice, I teach them how to use affective statements.  For example “it makes me sad when you complain about the homework.  I worked hard at preparing this lesson”.    You humanize yourself to students.  Restorative Justice practitioners create an image of themselves that is not one of authority

This isn’t just Kris Miner’s brand of restorative jusitce – the IIRP publication ‘The Restorative Practices Handbook for Teachers, Disciplinarians and Administrators” page 12 talks about these exact points.

These relationships lend to the client developing empathy and when you use your relationship (based on caring and mutual interest) you can intervene and the client feels the leverage based on a postive healthy relationship versus a violation of the rules.  You can develop empathy, explain things in a relationship context and help with victim awareness.

The majority of Criminal Justice Service Relationships are ones of authority.  And necessarily so.  I want those that break serious laws to be held accountable by a firm and fair criminal justice system.

I wonder if a Criminal Justice Service Provider would then see a Restorative Justice Practitioner as “unprofessional”?  I imagine the Criminal Justice service provider response would be to go to an authority rather than directly to the Restorative Justice Practitioner.

I imagine the Restorative Justice Practitioner would use her relationship with blog readers to explain.

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