Running a restorative program and running your life, congruently.

I haven’t blogged on it lately, but I have high value placed on people being Congruent also an earlier blog here.

As I look back on the blog posts, I pointed out where I was struggling with being congruent myself.  I want to be all restorative values at once!  I have high expectations, bordering towards perfection dysfunction and that beings with myself.  I hold myself to the high standards and maybe even higher than I expect of others.

One of my closest and longest volunteers recently told one of my staff I was bad role model.  This really bugged me.  She was talking about staying at work long hours.  The volunteer was advising my staff to not burn out.  Somehow I had gotten my employee to give me 5 hours before she officially started and her first day was 11 hours long.  (ok, I was laughing at this, my Dad would be so proud, I would have been a great Marine).  It did bug me, but it prompted me to realize I needed to change my ways or change my leadership.

I decided to change my leadership.  I told the staff to set limits on me, to tell me “no” when needed.  I said “I sure as hell don’t manage my time, I can’t do yours either”.  I told her to set her time appropriately and not work beyond the schedule.  Yesterday she left at 3:30 came back to the office at 6, I was still there.  She had worked on things at home.  Looks like we would both make good Marines.

Why work so hard, for me, a second chance.

I was looking hard for work in 2005.  I was a part-time probation aide, part-time circle keeper, I might have even had a 3rd job over that time as a mental health aide, as a mentor to a teen in foster care.  I had been with SCVRJP as a board member, since the beginning.  I have seen this organization from an “idea” to a full functioning non-profit.  Just yesterday I got to marvel at a check for $40,000.00.  That was a grant payment.  One item from our April budget, that used to be the annual budget!

Back to me looking work in 2005.  I was vice chair of SCVRJP, a meeting was held with the chair, vice chair and the sec/treasurer.  Not enough engaged people, the job of secretary and treasurer were combined!  So basically my taking the reins of the non-profit was discussed.  I agreed to be the interim director, I was willing to TRY it for a few months.

This was my second chance.  This was some career redemption for me.  I had worked my way up in positions within corrections and human services.  I vacated that quickly.  Joining the world of the non-profits has suited me well.

I run the program with passion, energy and values.  Its congruent with what restorative justice is all about.  I promote respect, kindness, addressing harm.  I see people holistically.  I try to run my life the same, the best thing is like all the 2nd chances we help with, I am using my 2nd chance to make my career matter.

Stranger kindess is so powerful, because you know it’s non-judgmental.

When I teach about restorative justice, I emphasize the importance of community members by using the kindness of strangers.  I explain that when someone we don’t know stops to help us, it has deeply positive impacts.  I explain this in a blog post.  A great relevant concept Consequential Strangers, more of my blogs on consequential strangers.

Let me explain how I came to realize ‘why’ the kindness of strangers is so powerful.

I was driving in a funeral procession, we were the 5th or 6th car.  My 18 year-old daughter and 21 year-old niece were with me.   I broke the silence by sharing my dislike for being one of the cars following a hearse.  I was remembering back 22 years to my Mothers funeral and having to be in the very first car behind the hearse.  Even as I type this the grief washes over me like a wave.  If you’ve ever had to have the first car experience you know exactly what I mean.

The cemetary was 8 miles away, down the highway.  I shared with the girls how I still stop and pull over for funeral processions.  My niece who lives in a small Nebraska town, shared they still do it there.   Daughter shared a story of seeing a driver have to cut across an intersection in St. Paul, and in that cut through the processional line of cars.

Then I noticed a truck, a car and a van, all pulled to the side of the road.  I was so touched.  I told the girls “see, you respect the dead, no matter who they are.”  I shared feeling respected and honored.  I shouted out to the cars “thank you, good luck, I hope you win the lottery.”  I was being my normal/wierd self, but also wanting to role model sending positive energy for my young passengers.  They didn’t even make fun of me.

We drove further and saw more drivers that elected to stop.  A few sped past.  I pointed these behaviors out to the girls.  I shared how deeply respected and touched I was by those that stopped.  I reinforced them to do kind things, not knowing how much a little thing can mean to someone else.  I was thinking of how deeply touched I was for those that stopped.  I knew they were consequential strangers, touching my life.  Giving me an opportunity to teach the young women in my car how to behave in a community.

I knew I would be blogging about this.  As I sat down this morning I realized its about NOT being judged.  These strangers had no idea who was in the hearse, who the family was, who the mourners were.  They didn’t know if we had money, beauty, fame, poverty or disease.  Well we have none of the above.

In restorative justice non-judgemental listening is promoted.  It’s a tool to the process, regardless of if you were harmed or harmed someone.  Community members/Circle volunteers are essentially the neutral set of eyes, they bring non-judgement kindness to the process.  It impacts others in the Circle that strangers care.  It restores and renews a sense of community.  Just like those drivers that pulled over on Wednesday morning.  They gave me a gift, another lesson that kindness has powerful effects.  Kindness restores and renews a sense of community, as only community members can do.

When managing your Restorative Justice program, manage your continuum of referrals.

I was going to be a TV news reporter.  I have always had a fascination and interest in why people do what they do.  I’ve always wanted to solve problems and I use my practical experiences to do that.  After working as a in-home family therapist, a social worker and a human services supervisor, I had some understanding of how people work, how the formal justice system works. 

Not all crime is reported. 

Sometimes the systems in place to help people can actually hurt them.

When I began as the Executive Director at SCVRJP I wanted to help Victims/Offenders and Community Members.  That is the restorative triad after all.  I knew something.  I knew that a number of people are victims to crime and sometimes that criminal incident doesn’t see a court room.  If they don’t get the person who harmed you, there are no “victim-witness services”.  Sometimes someone commits a crime and it goes unreported.  It could be fear of retaliation or embarrassment of being a victim.  There are a number of reasons why crime doesn’t see a court room.  Regardless, victims are hurt.

Therefore I try to balance my efforts and implementing and engaging referring agencies.  Here is a visual:


Direct from our community.  This requires a public awareness campaign.  This requires a reputation for being effective.  This is where victims can call your program and ask for help.  A family was referred our program, they didn’t want the juveniles involved going directly into the system.  We addressed the case, people volunteered to be part of it.  It was slightly frustrating because I saw people wanting what they didn’t have.  Some parents of the offending youth didn’t feel they had their “day in court”.  What they didn’t know was that it would have been several days.  They would not have had their day, as much as being part of the flow of the process.  As a facilitator I had to accept where people were at and support the concerns that the case did not go through the formal process.  We had a powerful process and I believe the issues have been resolved.


This referral comes directly from law enforcement or from the front line.  There is a willingness by people in the formal system to trust your restorative work.  This requires engaging these people of influence and developing relationships that reinforce the diversion was a good choice.  Diverting cases to restorative justice means that the formal system turns it over, diverts it from the formal route.  This can be done with formal options pending a failed restorative justice process or lack of engagement participation by the parties involved.  At this level victims may or may not engage, usually this is an offense viewed as lesser in the eyes of the formal system, likely it involved property crimes and not crimes against people.  Property crimes have a big impact on peoples perception of community it is important to seek out serving your community on these kinds of cases.

Alternative response 

This is referral that includes the formal system.  Alongside restorative justice might be a deferred agreement or a fine.  The formal system is viewing restorative justice as a partner.  This requires your restorative justice program to meet the courts needs and perspectives.  You may now also be having to manage victims that have may be disillusioned with the formal response.  Families of juveniles can be slightly frustrated at this point.  Often times a great deal of time has passed since the incident and people are feeling like they want to get things “over with”.  Communication with the referring agency is important to manage, they want to know the offender has completed everything.  As a restorative justice program, you are working on victims and community needs as well.  Managing a restorative justice program and offering only these kinds of services doesn’t fully engage the community and work to transform the formal system, like the entry points to the left.

Court Ordered

As part of a formal response, restorative justice is now required of the offender.  This might also include when restorative justice is offered in prison settings.  In my experience little victim participation at this end.  Those that do participate make a great deal of influence in any case, at any point.  People are tired and frustrated at this point, actually I can get tired when cases come at this end.  For example, I am already working with a young man.  The incident we are addressing is also in the formal system.   I suspect he will be sent back to SCVRJP for a service.  It will be awhile, 7 weeks between his first court hearing and the next.  The incident happens, it goes all through this process and comes back to SCVRJP.  I hope we might be able to go from incident to response sooner someday.  Court ordered restorative justice means people will have to pay for your service.  SCVRJP makes a portion of revenue by our Victim Impact Panels, as a requirement to get your driver’s license back, you must attend. 

It’s important to manage your program and take cases of all shades.  Howard Zehr posted a blog highlighting that restorative justice will be restorative when all victims have access, regardless of the offenders being in court.  I agree.

Creating rules or creating values, the difference in a restorative classroom.

Restorative Justice Classroom CircleIn the photo – Catherine and students in a morning circle.  Responsive Classroom has been taken one step further with implementing restorative justice in the classroom.

A recent training: 

Restorative Justice in Schools:  Effective Use of Circles.  I use a combination of Circle itself, Powerpoint and small group discussion to teach the various concepts and restorative justice circle process.

In small group Circles the training participants were speaking to the concepts they already use and the ones they would like to start using.  I over heard a participant talking about how the creation of classroom ‘rules’ happens all the time, when in fact we should be creating “values” for our classrooms.  YES! YES! YES!

Rules can be what student do when the teacher is watching.  Values are ways of behaving, knowing what we should be doing, versus behaving in a way we want to, or even have to.  You’ve got to put the motivation for behavior on the INSIDE.  You need a shared concept of community in a classroom.  INSIDE that little community is shared concepts of treating each other.  INSIDE those little people in the class, you instill the values for behavior.

We talk very little with children about values.  Circles are where that talking can take place.  In Circles you can discuss and demonstrate trust, respect, honesty and caringRestorative Justice Circle.  Even when you are talking about other things you can be sharing about these values.  Circles bring our character.  What you share about shows character.  Deep down inside all of us, is our core character, and young people need help.  They need help carving out character, and we can do that by teaching and talking about values.

In the training demonstration Circle, I used the getting acquainted question “what did you have for breakfast, if you could have had anything, what would you have had”.  We learned someone made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for her child and had one.  We learned someone else had a spouse who went to a nearby farm that morning for fresh eggs.  We learned who had coffee, who would have rather had waffles.  It was a way of seeing interactions with others by learning who had what for breakfast.  As we ended the demonstration circle, the training participants offered reflections.  It was noted that you can learn a great deal from others, just by listening.  Circles give that listening space and process.

Values stay with us longer than rules.  Values transfer situation or setting.  We need rules to offer structure and I think using values as rules is a way to create a restorative classroom.  Rules are hard to place in relationships to each other, values are the means to which we treat each other.  Next time you are considering the rules, think about the values instead.

Yoga teacher wisdom: the longer it takes to learn, the longer you’ll have it.

I am back to Bikram yoga, and its a tough type of yoga.  Somewhere in the intensity of getting thru the class physically, these emotional “ah-ha’s” occur.   When the yoga teacher was encouraging us to be patient in our learning of the poses, she told us this:

The longer it takes to learn it, the longer you will have the skill.

This was the answer to a recent dilemma I have been facing.  People want Restorative Justice training, Circle facilitator training in a quick fix.  I recently emailed other leaders/keepers asking what they thought of this.  I had been asked by a school to go from 2 days to 1/2 a day.  In addition as hard as I try to explain to teachers, learn Circle, do Circle, then do a Circle that addresses conflict.  The focus is always on how to solve something, rather than use the process as a skill builder.  Once the skills are in place, then use the process and the people with the skills to address conflict or repair harm.

I’ve been called in to try and clean up when the process had weak even harmful outcomes.  I was glad to hear from the person calling, that they understood the person doing restorative justice, wasn’t really doing it.  Despite it being called restorative justice.  Restorative Justice is not JUST getting the parties involved together.

Thats the problem if you don’t take time to learn more about it.  You stop learning, you stop at getting those involved together.  Its much more, it’s the type of questions, it’s the approach to repair the harm.  There are specific skills involved in doing restorative justice, it takes time to develop these skills.  Then to learn how best you apply them, the when and where. 

I really believe restorative justice is more than a fad.  I believe that if we remain consistent that a whole school approach, or a community wide engagement of restorative justice as best practice we can get more done.  If we use RJ early and often, we can prevent deeper involvement for youth in the juvenile justice system.  Keep youth out of the system, WHILE protecting the community and changing behavior, you reduce the amount of adults in the system.  That domino effect will address our prison problem.

I just did an interview for a student writing a paper.  I explained how New Zealand and Ireland have implemented Restorative Justice as a front line approach to juvenile justice.  A follow question about how SCVRJP is doing it.  It made me a little sad, to think we haven’t really seen many referrals for juveniles lately. 

It’s taken me awhile to learn it, but I have the skill.  It’s time to go back and try to work on our diversion, early intervention and pre-system points for referrals.  Restorative Justice studies show excellent outcomes.  It can be frustrating to put efforts in and not have the people with influence for referring cases and utilizing the program.  At least I have learned that being angry and frustrated doesn’t help.  Its taken a long time to learn that, so I’ll have that for a long time!

I can focus on two things from the yoga teacher – encouraging others to take time to learn Restorative Justice so they have it longer.  The other thing, is to embrace what has taken me a long time to learn!

If you are learning restorative justice, take your time, the results from understanding and knowing it completely will produce better outcomes!  I know this from doing this a long time!

Training re-charges my batteries, I love being a workshop facilitator.

I know I have blogged before about how I love training people in restorative justice.  I was going to link out to an earlier post, in part to see how I have changed or what I said about it in the past.  I decided that didn’t matter, what matters in this post is you.  How do you re-charge your batteries and how do find ways to make the most out of it.  Here’s some of my story.

I didn’t know what I didn’t know.  Know one knows what they don’t know.  (I know, reread it slowly or out loud, it will make sense).  What I love about restorative justice is that we kindly, respectfully let people know what they don’t know.  Victims and community members telling people how crime impacts them, is giving away “knowing”.  You need to know how you impact people.  People who have caused harm, or committed crimes also share what they know.  They share about what they were thinking, what they have thought about since.  This creates “knowing” for the rest of us.  You simply cannot do it any different that having it come from “the horse’s mouth”. 

I didn’t know that training would charge me up as much as it has.  At first I was nervous, worried about my content, my presentation, the staging of my jokes, my connection to the audience.  It would stress me out, but being a type A, I began to know it was good stress.  I was making myself better.  I was shaping myself as a person with lots of experience.  (I am a little sensitive to the word expert, but I kinda feel honored when others use it in reference to me.  I have lots of experiences and if that makes me an expert, ok.)  What did you used to put effort into that you now do with ease.  What do you know more about?  What are your experiences?

People gave me feedback.  I started to know how to work my energy and passion.  I started to know that being in my zone, was also called flow.  I was recently given feedback that my energy is contagious and that I am well spoken.  Cool!  Who knew!  Now I know!

Turning knowing into growing.  I’m gonna rock the next training!  My content is about 3 times what I can fit in a one day.  I also know where my “volume” level on my energy can be.  I know where to put in small group work, how to make the most of the learners time.  I also get to be pretty loud, louder than usual because I am the trainer.  That’s what charges me up.  I get to share my passion, my examples and my knowledge about Restorative Justice.  Its like funneling all my work into a place of greater meaning.  I thrive on making meaning.  I grow knowing I am being meaningful.

Back to you.  Where to do find meaning?  Where do you put what you know, into how you grow?

#Restorative Justice addressing the social and emotional aspects of crime.

I watch for reactions in people.  I’ve been getting a few “ah-ha” looks when I explain that restorative justice addresses the social and emotional aspects of crime.  I use the image of a railroad track, that we can work along side the legal response.  I was talking with a victim advocate, and we compared telling the story for forensic content, and telling the story for healing.  We heal when we can get that story on the outside of our body IN a supportive enviornment.  That’s why circles work.

Found this video from heartspeak, it speaks to the importance of conferencing and the power of dealing with emotions.


Restorative Justice Volunteers, you have my deepest heartfelt THANKS!!!

A volunteer shared something recently.  Its from the cover of a volunteer orientation booklet.  A quote by Margaret Mead:

“We live in a society that always has depended on volunteers of different kinds – – some who can give money, others who give time, and a great many who freely give of their special skills, full time or part time.  If you look closely, you will see that almost anything that really matters to us, anything that embodies our deepest committment to the way human life should be lived and cared for, depends on some form– more often, many forms–of volunteerism.”

One of our volunteers deflected some praise to me, saying “she really helped me”.  He had just finished speaking to 1,200 students at a mock crash.  He stood up owned what he had done.  He was speaking with the officer who was on the scene the day of the fatal crash.  The officer removed his sunglasses to offer thanks and feedback to the young man.  I overheard him say something about how good it was to see the speaker doing good.  That is when the praise got deflected to me.  Thats how humble our volunteer is.  SCVRJP couldn’t reach out to people if we didn’t have story tellers to share the worse thing that ever happened.

Our board, the governance of this non-profit is also done by volunteers.  Volunteers help explain community perspective to people who have caused harm.  It means something different coming from a volunteer.  As much as I love my job, and restorative justice, people know that I am paid to be here.  Paid positions don’t represent community like volunteers do.

A client was in Circle waiting for things to start.  I was sitting in my seat, directing people that we needed to sit with volunteers not right next to each other.  In a completely confused and slightly cynical voice, the client asked, “why would ANYONE volunteer to be here?”  I smiled, when I really wanted to chuckle.  Sure enough as she left that night, SHE was thinking about volunteering.

My grammer is better because someone volunteered some writing tips!  Thanks Melinda!  Volunteers are all around me, they help in every aspect of my life and work.  I had coffee with someone from another agency today, she was volunteering time with me as we brainstormed about another collaborative team we serve on.  You simply can not exist without giving your time and volunteering for someone else.  You may as well make in meaningful!

I hope you find the Mead quote as powerful as I have.  If you are in my area and you want to volunteer, you know where I work!

Restorative Justice Circle question for getting deeper communication.

I train others in Circle, by doing Circle.

I love the bonds formed in a training session.  In two days you learn SO much about people.

Key concepts I focus on:  Consensus, Relationships, Values, Restorative Justice philosophy, Circle practice.

As we were nearing lunch on day one, the group was ready for a question that went a little deeper.  Our content was all about Restorative Justice, so I asked the question:  “Can you share about a time in your life where you could have used Restorative Justice?”

Amazing responses.  Conflicts from elementary school, middle school, current situations about Mother-Daughter relationships issues, family issues, abuse, suicide, cutting, and mine was about the time I left a job via ‘resignation and release’.  Which means I resigned before I was released.  As we went around the room sharing these stories, voices shook, tears flowed.  To keep myself from crying when people are choking up, crying in Circle, I look at the Center.  The values are in the center, written on paper plates.  It occured to me that we were using restorarive justice for these situations.  IRL -in real life, use of restorative justice by sharing where we could have used it, we were using it right now.  I love a good back-door healing move.

When the talking piece came back to me, I shared with the Circle, how we applied the values, by giving each other support, love, trust, communication and all the values in the Center.  Even though we related an issue in our past, we were currently using restorative justice for it.

I was struck by how much it bonded our group.  A deep round like that will deepin the bond in the Circle.  I realized I had said somethings in front of my new staff and intern, that I probably would never have talked about.  I worried about getting judged, then I dismissed it.

The value of knowing how much everyone in Circle understood restorative justice was great.  The ideas that we could have used Circles to address these issues was really cool.  The majority of responses did deal with family or school issues.  I’ve made some headway with RJ in schools . . .  I wonder how to get Restorative Justice Circles into families, cause the stories shared show people think they could have been helpful.

Restorative Justice/Restorative Practices are like healthy living, you need to make lifestyle changes.

My health has been a concern for me lately.  My face is red and blotchy my clothes are snug, I haven’t been doing the good things I need to do for my overall health.  It’s so easily stated:  eat well, exercise.  Two simple, simple concepts yet much more to implement.  I think and think and think.  Why don’t I go to yoga?  Why am I buying Apple Jacks instead of Special K?  I don’t like having to hide my tummy or feel uncomfortable in tight waistbands.  I desire a healthy lean body.  I don’t always do the work.

Its been on my mind enough, that its become a comparison now – healthy and restorative justice are lifestyle approaches.

Conversation has emerged recently about the “quick fix”, others wanting to implement Restorative Justice and getting there quickly without really spending time in training.  You see Restorative Justice/Restorative Practices is not ‘fast food’.  You don’t drive up and get one meal.  It’s an overall philosophical approach.

Thank goodness some teachers have told me the truth.  They didn’t “buy in” to the idea of restorative justice.  Flavor of the month, technique of the week, and this sort of defensiveness would apply if Circles of Conferences were taken as a strand, and not the entire fabric.  Restorative Justice is about transforming the bigger way we do things.  Its being mindful and aware of community and relationships before harm or wrongdoing occurs.  Its responding to harm in a way that is inclusive, engaging and respectful.

Restorative Justice and Healthy living both appear very, very simple.  Both require small differences over time to make a major impact.  Both require changes on multiple levels.  Both require a committment to an overall different lifestyle.

A few ways I’ve found to express a restorative lifestyle:

  • honoring other peoples significant relationships.  I knew her Aunt was special, she was in town so I passed along a SCVRJP mug for her.  I remembered their son’s name, so I could ask about how he was, years after being in Circle together.
  • honor circle values, outside of circles. trust, honesty, respect, love are the top 4 values I’ve seen written on hundreds of paper plates in Circle.  Strong relationships can survive conflict.  If I find myself in conflict, for the most part, I try to honor the values.  I get to hear what is important to others in Circle and that helps me know how we all influence people.  We should always honor relationship values – it might seem like you do, but we can always do better.

Healthy living wise:

  • pack my lunch! You won’t believe it, every day I need lunch!  Yet I go unprepared into my day!  I don’t eat breakfast, I’m scrounging thru my desk for candy, crackers, whatever I can find.  Today, a salad for lunch and a midmorning serving of yogurt with extra blueberries.  The care to myself to pack lunch really helps.  Sorry for declining sales Jimmy Johns!
  • in my mouth, write it down.  Off and on I keep a food journal.  I feel really good when I keep my 1200-1500 calorie mark.  If I don’t write it down, I easily forget what I’ve had.  It’s a researched and validated technique (just like restorative justice)
  • DO IT!  JUST EXERCISE.  I wish I was better and that it was clearly a part of my life, like brushing my teeth.   When I’m not in my groove, I don’t do anything.  Exercise is a guaranteed feel good, I have never left a yoga class or gym feeling like I wasted my time.  NEVER.  I know the feeling of sitting at work, getting distracted and realizing oops, yoga started 10 minutes ago.

Our lives are our choice, our lifestyles are small choices made day after day.  Choose wisely friends!