“Restorativists” dealing with others to promote Restorative Justice.

I’ve dug into some more academic reading when it comes to Restorative Justice.  

Repositioning Restorative Justice, edited by Lode Walgrave (pictured) and another book authored by Mr. Walgrave Restorative Justice, Self-interst and Responsible Citizenship.  

I appreciate theorists and the results of academic research.  Having said that, I would consider myself to be an “educated practitioner”.  I apply the theory and research to working with and practicing restorative justice principles.  I think practitioners are more left brained, at least I am, so when I hear a speaker I can tell if they are more academic than practitioner based.  I really don’t intend any harm by pointing out these different perspectives.  

I found a term in the Repositioning book, the term is “Restorativists”.  I had not actually heard that before.  I assign meaning to things, everything in fact.  So a train of thoughts erupted in my brain.  

I came to realize that as a restorativist, I forget others aren’t always working from this model.  As we know, Restorative Justice is a philosophical approach.  Howard Zehr’s book on the movement ‘Changing Lenses’  encourages looking at justice differently.  Restorativists have a specific view of crime as harm, and that relationships are crucial to healing.  (my brief paraphrased definition).  

I’ve been faced with a few challenges lately.  I have forgotten that people don’t operate from the mindset I do.  If you don’t have the mindset of a restorativist, you likely can’t connect to the PURPOSE of restorative justice.  If you can’t figure out the core purpose of something, why would you use it.  

For example, if you saw a hammer, but didn’t know its function and purpose, would you even use it?  Funny I would pick a hammer.  

The point is, that I can forget when someone isn’t embracing restorative justice, just what might be under that.  I have assumptions, as a restorativist type person.  

I love the levels identified, by Belinda Hopkins

4 – Being Restorative – a mindset and framework at all times  

3- Doing – You facilitate process  

2-Referring– you pass cases on to RJ  

1- Interested – curious about using RJ  

0 – Unaware or ignorant to what RJ is  



1 – Opposed or against RJ  

 The challenge comes when getting others to participate in RJ sessions, or make referrals that they understand the purpose.
I came across this gem in my reading.
(pg 10 of Repositioning)  restorative justice processes should be seen not as alternatives to punishment, but as alternative punishments.
For me as a restorativist, I wouldn’t necessarily 100% agree with this.  However, for people who might be a -1 to a 2 on the scale above, it might promote a different understanding or openness to Restorative Justice.  It might just be a shift in perspective that would change a person’s relationship to restorative justice.
Relationships are very important.  So keep a pulse on the relationships of those around you.  Keep the pulse on the relationship they have to restorative justice.

It’s time to talk about my empty nest. Lessons for all of us.

There are cycles in nature, there are cycles in life.  Some days you feel on top of the pile and some times you feel like the pile.  My life is mid-cycle right now.  My daughter recently moved out.  She’s doing it her way, slowly.  She was home last night for a few hours, but didn’t sleep here.  I am forced to cope with this as she is handling it.  The transition is complicated, her car is being repaired and her job is here, her new home in the Cities.

I am trying to live my life restoratively.  That means being in ‘right relationship’ with others, all creation and creator.

I don’t know or feel like I am doing very good at that.  You see, I am hurting right now.  Sad to see this chapter in life end.  Sorry for all the moments I didn’t be a better Mom.  For the moments I was a great Mom, those opportunities are different now.  I have to figure out how to be SuperMom, in a different way. 

Yet I am faced with great opportunity for change right now.  I have a freedom of time and certain responsibility.  My life has eased up in a demanding category (housework, dishes, laundry – I find these things demanding).  I am in a pull to change and a pull to stay the same.

I am reminded of a quote – something about how our real character is who we are at our “in-between” times.  I’m “in-between”. 

My lessons to share:

1.) be mindful of the path.  Am I on the right path?  Who do I want to be.  What do I want to become.  Where are you on your path?

2.)small habits add up.  I haven’t made it to yoga and have NO excuse.  I haven’t packed and prepared my lunch, still eating what can be purchased quickly.  Change is a little over a long time, the littles add up.

3.)Here is here.  Now is now.  What can I do at this moment to be ME, the best person I am.  Just because of a role change, all the positive qualities I have are not gone.  I just need to BE.

Dear Readers, thank you for joining me on the journey.  The blog is going to be two years old in the fall.  Right now over 60,ooo views.  In the grand scheme of blogging that might be someone else’s daily volume, for me, I am honored to have contacted that many people.

I believe personal and professional mix.  I needed to document in this time and space where I am.  I hope the sharing of my life, helps with yours.


Perspective. A powerful tool for promoting understanding and compassion.

SCVRJP has a program supporting drug court participants and family members.  Circles of Understanding.

The format is to have 3 participants in drug court, 3 community members and 3 support people (whose loved on or family member has been in drug court or experienced addiction).  The Circle meets for 8 weeks.  Week 1 and Week 8 are the Open and Close Circles, and weeks 2-7 we are taking turns hearing stories from different perspectives.  Hearing from a person in drug court, hearing from a parent, a spouse, a community member – you begin to see, really see how people impact each other.  The deep experiences between family members are offered up and put out there in relating a story.  The non-judgemental environment in Circle allows us to absorb the experience and offer reflection.

I have been transformed by this.

A person’s story, their experience related genuinely to another, is a unique and powerful gift.  To hear people sharing, openly about an incident of harm around addiction, is bearing witness to some very deep pain. 

Addiction is not to be taken lightly.  As dark and deep as it is, it has a counter.  That counter is recovery.  Recovery is amazing.  I have heard the Circles are helping people with their recovery.  As we understand our actions we are connected to them in a more meaningful way.  Recovery is living with the responsiblity of those connections to others.

The Circles of Understanding have surpassed my expectation.  Years of restorative justice work taught me that simply hearing another side of the story was powerful.  What makes the lesson so deep and powerful is that relationship that people have to the issue.  When parents, spouses and community members speak to their experience while the loved one was in addiction, and they are sharing with people who caused that same harm to their own families.  At first glance it would seem this would create more conflict.  It creates understanding.  Perspective sharing creates understanding and I can’t think of an example when MORE understanding about something didn’t help.

Being a partner with area drug courts has really been a blessing.  I admire the courage of the teams to try something different, to allow additional programming into the many requirements of drug court participation.  All of the people associated with SCVRJP will forever be in our community of restorative justice.  We have volunteers that have been with us for years, I know, they tell me, that being involved helps keep them sober and in recovery.  That creates an additional perspective for all of us to understand, it’s about our relationships.

Thank you for reading!

The Restorative Justice Talking Piece – tangible and physical, abstract and soulful.

From Stephen Covey – the 8th Habit:

(The Talking Piece) is one of the most powerful communication tools I’ve ever seen, because, while it is tangible and physical, it embodies a concept that is powerfully synergistic.  This Talking Stick represents how people with differences can come to understand one another . . . speak, until you are satisfied that you are understood . . . pass the Talking Stick to the next person and then work to make him feel understood.  Once each of the parties feels understood an amazing thing usually happens.  Negative energy dissipates, contentions evaporate, mutual respect grows, and people become creative.  New ideas emerge.  (page 197)

I used the above quote on a little pamplet I made for student leaders.  Yesterday I pulled it out to add the quote to a powerpoint I was working on.  The evening before I was in a really powerful transformative Circle.  As I looked at the quote again I realized how powerful the talking piece really is.

It’s a core element of a Circle, with a capital C, Circle, in my opinion.  I know we can seat people in a circle facing each other, but Kay Pranis in all three of her books, lists the talking piece as an element of a Restorative Justice Circle.

The ‘talking piece’ is physical as Covey points out.  There is also so much that is invisible about a talking piece.  The talking piece signifies equality and respect.  Everyone will get the opportunity to hold the piece.  People are invited to share equally, what a person shares or if they share is at their own discresion.  The invitation is extended equally.

Respect is embodied in a talking piece, you have people giving witness to your words when you have it.  There is a responsibility an obligation to select wise words.  I often call it using our “wisest words”, when we speak from the heart.

I had a friend get in the closet of his office and ask me if he was still there.  He was making the point to me that we live in a world of things we can see and things we cannot see.

My recent reading and TED talk watching has be engaged in the brain.  The inner core, where language does not exist, sort of the unseen.  The talking piece is like this tangible and physical and at the same time abstract.

A favorite talking piece is pictured.  It was a gift from a teacher.  Day two of a training I facilitated included teachers each taking a piece of Circle keeping and co-keeping the Circle.  The workshop student/teacher brought a the talking piece shown and explained:

Home is where your heart is.  You are safe at home, you are safe in Circle.  You can speak from the heart in Circle.

The teacher did mission work in Africa, helping a community heal from civil war.  Someone in the villiage made the little carved huts.  While the villiage was empty as a result of war, the trees grew in.  Instead of wasting the resource they wood was used for carvings.

This is one of my favorite talking pieces.

Students summarize SCVRJP! Great story by area high schoolers!

I occassionally search You Tube for new videos about Restorative Justice.  I sort the videos by date added and review all of them until they start to look familiar.

Can you imagine my suprize when I found this story about my program!  I assumed the students didn’t do the story, since they never followed up.  I think they did a really great job!

Thanks River Falls High Schoolers!


Restorative Justice 911, are you doing, really doing Restorative Justice.

I was listening to a great recording today, http://www.fundraising123.org/article/how-tap-heart-and-soul-your-organization-when-you-write.  The topic was excellent in helping non-profits describe their work.  The name of the training series is Nonprofit 911, and I immediately thought that was awesome, and jotted down:  Restorative Justice 911.

911 – the number if you are in a crisis or have an emergency.

ADD moment: I get amused by voicemail messages . . . “You’ve reached (insert name, agency), if this is an emergency hang up and call 911 . . .”  do people really need to be told this in a voicemail?

Anyway . . . Restorative Justice 911 struck me as an important topic.  I have felt an anxiety that as a movement, Restorative Justice could be facing some threatening challenges.  I am facing these challenges and suspect others are as well.  The challenges include:

1.)Dilution of the philosophy.

2.)Lack of sustainability.

3.)Solid, parallel collaborations.

Let me explain.  How well does something work after being watered down?  Full strength is best.  I’ve seen Circle demonstration that were void of the basic element described by Kay Pranis.  Those elements, very simply are:  Ceremony (use an open & close), Talking Piece, Guidelines, Story-telling, a Keeper & Consensus.  All three of Kay’s books include these elements.  When I finish writing my book, they will be included.  Circles are my favorite way to do restorative justice, and I believe the most effective.  I believe strongly in the philosophy and values of Restorative Justice.  The key elements include, (and I made it look like a brickwall on purpose):

source: kris miner, circlespace blog

 I use these along side the 3 pillar‘s from Howard Zehr.  If we start to do Restorative Justice without victims, or even trying to engage them, we are watering down restorative justice.  The 2nd challenge sustainability, plays into the first. 

It’s called funding, and it’ve very important.  I’ve called this a magic carpet ride, taking a path based JUST on the funding.  I am facing a challenge right now, SCVRJP is doing the first appeal mailing.  My anxiety is high, will a single envelope come back to us in the mail?  Will my board finally start to give?  It is a LOT of hard work being an executive director.  Its even more hard work to be the director of a Restorative Justice program.  Some ED’s have it easy when it comes to the core cause.  You can say ‘domestic violence’ and people immediately identify that they don’t want that.  You say ‘restorative justice’ and people aren’t sure what it even is.  Getting conversation around this going and networked into the world of restorative justice is going to be critical for the movement to sustain.

The 3rd challenge I have identified as “parallel collaborations”.  I have heard that in 3 places now, that it is soooo important for your board to me modeling what you do.  Relative to any non-profit.  Hmmm, that was very interesting information.  It came at me in totally different situations and from totally unrelated sources.  That always catches my attention, when things appear in 3’s.  I think SCVRJP does an ok job of that, we could be doing better.  I would love to see our board meetings, even just 3 a year, happen in Circle.  Actually I need to ask this of them!  I am going to do that!  Face my own challenge head on!

I got an “investigative” call, someone took a complaint about my work.  My agenda on the phone call was to really hear where I failed the complainers.  The caller, who took the complaint, was wanting me to “staff” the case.  She finally said “don’t play dumb with me”.  I was shocked!  Who says that to someone else?  I have many gifts and many weaknesses, and playing dumb is not Kris Miner.  I saw a real LACK of restorative justice in that statement.  Restorative Justice asks ‘what happened’, restorative justice hears both sides.  By parallel collaborations, I mean ones where we are holding restorative justice values like respect, relationships, restoration at the heart of ALL we do.  From networking between programs to sharing with others, its got to all be restorative.

I fear and face challenges myself to live and breathe what restorative justice is and does.  We can always do better, me included.  Prevention is the best medicine, lets not need a Restorative Justice 911 by addressing our challenges head on.

Training and teaching on Restorative Justice, framing and coaching apply.

Just over a week apart I had two very different and important presentations to  make.  The first was the sermon, during a church service.  The second presentation was part of a week long Restorative Measures training by the MN Department of Education hosted by Nancy Riestenberg.

Kris Miner

If you want to succeed at public speaking (conveying your points, engaging others for action) you need to consider your audience.

My tips for this are to frame the subject matter and then coach people on how to get the outcomes desired.

I do this a few different ways:

1.)Frame your concepts.

In my church sermon, I shared about the “good news” and I kept pointing out what the good news was.  I had key concepts that I called good news.

When teaching during the Restorative Measures program, I brought people back to the RJ basics.  I used learning and feeling objectives.  I explained up front what I wanted them to learn.  Then I included what I wanted them to feel (inspired, new vision, connected).

Teaching on a college campus helped me in learning how to frame things.  Give things for people to think about.  I teach the concept by sharing Restorative Justice “bumper stickers”.  People know what a bumper sticker is.  They get that a message can be powerful with a few words. 

I also always share Howard Zehr’s images from GoodBooks Publishing.

I take lots of care in training people.  Its important to teach the concepts in a way that people can actually relate to and that is where coaching comes in.

I like to do Circle as a way of teaching it.

I don’t do “demonstrations” or “mock” Circles.  I have a regard for this that we ask people to come to it in a way that is honest, genuine and real, so I just don’t feel a need play it, I think we can just do it.  However when I am speaking or teaching in front of a group I focus my language, my words and my information around coaching people to do this work.

A coach, see’s where you are and gets you to do it better.  Coaching is about performing.  I coach, restorative justice.  I try to specifically give examples of how to go from A to B to C.  Thank goodness for two influences that helped me learn this.  The first influence was my early audiences.  I had 45 minutes of lecture prepared, after 10 minutes a hand went up.  The statement “How do you do it?”  I was already to sell the “concept” to promote the “philosophy”, the listeners wanted the recipe.  The audience wanted the step by step method. 

Teachers well, they have been fun to teach.  I still get anxiety when I give teacher directions.  They are the GURU’s at giving out task directions.  Guiding them to work in small groups without exactly defining what you want is going to discredit you.  If you can’t explain the assignment and explain the outcome clearly they tell you.  Believe me!  Thank you to the early groups that gave me grief over not having clear directions!  Teachers are also awesome about the task completion!  The do 5 ‘metaphor magic’s’ not 4 and not 6, I assigned 5 and they do 5!  I love teachers!

The second influence that helped me get to my style of teaching and training was working with an actual teacher!  She shared how teachers percieve “trainers”.  She explained how teachers get sent to mandatory trainings, and have seen ‘flavor’ of the month for years.  This great influence can be duplicated.  If I present to a group, I try to find an insider to give me some honest perspective.

Having real, genuine and open conversatins is what helps get to be a better teacher, trainer and facilitator of restorative justice.