Restorative Justice Conferencing the key for victims is in one question.

Key’s open doors.  They open more than that, I’ve always loved the phrase “a key to my heart”.  To me, that means the release of passion or the transformation of your heart.  When we open our hearts, we stop with ourselves and connect to another.

I recently pulled out my copy of Listening Project, and thought it would help me to review it.  I played a game with myself and memorized the 6 core needs of victims.  I wrote the first letter of each on the side of a finger tip.  First and foremost Safety, the rest are Information, Choice, Testimony, Validation and Restitution.  (I hope I nailed that, I didn’t go open the link!). 

One area of Restorative Justice Professionalism I focus on, is remembering ALL victims.  Some victims do not get a victim-witness worker through the prosecutor’s office.  The list of Victims Rights for Wisconsin is very court-room, criminal justice system process orientated.  That’s good, victims need support and help navigating that.  What I do is restorative justice, and in striving to do that well for all victims I have experienced a conferencing question that is KEY.

The prepared questions I use are pretty standard.  I use the IIRP cards.  The question that gets to the heart of it is “what has been the hardest thing for you”.  I love how personalized this is. 

“The hardest thing for YOU“.

I’ve heard beauty is in the eye of the behold and that harm is in the eye of the beholder.  After hundreds of pre-conference meetings and conference sessions I see this question really turn things for a conference.  The victim gets to express their deepest concerns.  They get to relate the crime in the manner that impacts them.

I tune in deeply here for what might make it right.  There was an accidental discharge of a gun, but it was pointed at the teen girl.  The bullet pierced her hand, lodged in her skull.  She had to stay calm for weeks, no reading, video games, nothing to keep her brain calm.  She had to go to physical therapy for the hand, she couldn’t do basketball camp.  She had to answer question after question about what happened, why her hand was casted.  Many aspects of her life were impacted (as covered in the question, just before this key question).  The hardest part for her was when the medical team cut off her jeans.

We know our weakest moments.  I believe we ‘bookmark’ them mentally for survival.  Victims know what is the hardest part, because it is likely the memory or the piece that continues to haunt them and linger around.  The more serious the harm, certainly the deeper and more layers of what is hardest.

Restorative Justice gives victims, protected space (safety) to speak (testimony) what they (choice) determine is the hardest.  The restorative justice conference can move towards making things right (validation & restitution) after knowing this information.

Use this key question in Restorative Conferencing and when working with people hurt or impacted.  Ask parents of juveniles or even the offender, the answers will reveal to you, the things people need support around.

Me? Am I at home in the emotional world? Values are feelings.

It’s hard to express yourself when you don’t know who you are.

My life is in great transition.  I am living alone for the first time in 18 1/2 years.  I am a single, work-a-holic.  I just glanced at a Wedding invitation and that makes me feel better about connections.

The last few months of my life have not included much blogging.  The weakest blog posts in nearly two years of blogging.  I would log on, stare at the screen of my downhill statistics.  If you don’t blog, people have nothing new to come see.  I thought the declining statistics would push my ‘competitive side’, no luck.

See I am trying to do sooo many things different.  I should be exercising, eating better, doing MORE at work.  Having a healthy committed relationship, keeping the house spotless (I live alone after all).  I am having more and more SHOULD’s and less and less experiences and commitments to the core values I selected for myself to live by – Generosity, Spirituality and Connection.

I realize I haven’t let myself have a little ‘grief’ and ‘grief’ is a feeling.  I’ve been knotted up inside.  Sitting in a chair in my daughter’s room, remembering how I would rock her little baby bundly person and time would fly.  As I would start to feel something heavy, I would remember some of the SCVRJP volunteers who lost children.  I would stuff my grief, dismissing it because it was not as bad as her’s.

Last night I was up unable to sleep for the second night in a row.  Feeling as tense as ever.  A set point is back to my days as an in-home family therapist.  The tension inside my body is so tight there is nowhere to go.  I know when I realize that I feel the way I did back then, I am stressed to the max.

When “stressed to the max” we don’t perform well.  At least I don’t.  I ended up texting a friend, got a call back and I was on the phone crying.  When asked about crying, I said it was my performance review.  I’ve been so caught up in who I “am”, worried about this whole new life as a single woman living alone, that I forgot the “truth”.  The truth is that I do a really good job for SCVRJP.  The truth is I am not just an executive director.

Once again the philosophy I love, restorative justice, to the rescue.  I began to think in terms of harms, needs, obligations and engagements.  I got side tracked and was mad about programs call themselves restorative justice, but don’t use inclusive, respectful models.  (link – of a good effort, but not quite RJ).

This experience is helping me as a practitioner of CHANGE.  Healing is a desired benefit of Restorative Justice, I also believe working to promote empathy, increase self-worth and restore connections are other desired outcomes.  So as I experience a time of needing to use my inner resources for outer circumstances, I see how to make connections that might help others.

Restorative Justice is based on values.  Trust, honesty, love, respect, common values I’ve seen presented in Circle sessions.  What are these really?  I think they come down to feelings.  You sure know when someone doesn’t have them, for how you feel.  I love values, I love the concept, I love using them to get to know people.  I love focusing restorative justice around them, by using Circle process as the main administration of the Restorative Justice philosophy.

And blog, I’m back.  Like a bear I needed a little bit of hibernation to get back in the game.

Thanks readers, I love you!

Restorative Justice Circles engage all participants in the outcome.

Doing Democracy with Circles by Ball, Caldwell & Pranis:

Circles ensure that each voice will be heard and each concern taken into account.  Circles involve full participation.  When Circles work, it is because all the participants are involved in shaping the process and keeping it on track.  The participants, not the facilitator, hold themselves and each other accountable for how the process goes.  If a gap starts forming between values and behavior, principles and practice, then the responsibility lies with each particpant to do something about it. (page 10)

One of the key teachings I try to provide, regarding Circle keeping, is summed up above.  The power to give people belief in the values and principles of Circle in a manner that impacts their behavior and practices.


When engaging in Restorative Justice as a facilitator or as a partner referring cases it is important to recognize that a program is solid when it remains focues on the values and principles of Restorative Justice.

I have found that people respond to values.  When you place values and value-based communication opportunities in front of people they respond.   From the young person in kindergarden that shared she feels invisible when someone takes her turn to the prison inmate who calls life on the street a “mad-tality” (mentality of life, that means you are fiercely angry).

When you use Circles and engage all participants in the outcome, it means SOOO much more.  Restorative Justice brings the different sides and perspectives together.  The issue or incident is in the middle.  Much more productive.  I explained it this morning as looking at both sides of the same coin.  There is something very empathetic about the person who has caused harm, to listen to the person harmed.  Even, if it’s not in the exact same incident.

I am very proud of many of the programs developed at SCVRJP, I just reference our collaboration with drug court, and our Circles of Understanding as a “crown jewel” in my career.  It stems from our ability to ensure each voice is heard in Circle.  The Circle process is powerful and dynamic and I believe a true catalyst for change.

Be curious about Restorative Justice it will lead you to new discoveries.

I have been fascinated with brain-power lately.  It’s to the point I’ve even teased (just once) that I might change my favorite restorative justice cliché from “a change of behavior, by a change of heart” to “a change of behavior by a change of brain.”

I especially love the work of Simon Sinek, you should link to his site and watch the Video The Golden Circle.  I first found him on TED.  (ps – it’s on my list to speak at TED about Restorative Justice/Circles)  I was automatically attracted to the very mention of Circle.  I can’t wait for his book to arrive.

I get Simon’s daily messages called Notes to Inspire.  Today’s message: 

Creativity comes from curiosity. The more curious you are about the world, the more you experience and learn.

I’ve been called creative, my top strengthsfinder strength is Ideation and I dream up new ideas in every single conversation or meeting I am part of.  It’s just how my brain is wired.  This morning’s quote on creativity linked to curiosity got me.  It rang true.  I have been and still am very curious about Restorative Justice.  I’ve been doing this work since first being trained in ’98 and full-time since the fall of ’05.  Why so curious? 

The heart of restorative justice is just so damn real.  It’s about what people experience on the inside.  It’s taking a special path to get there.  It’s getting people to be real in the presence of those they hurt and those that hurt them.  There is untapped potential in this.  I am at week 6 of a 8 week program, where support people and focus people meet together.  The topic in the Circle Center is addiction and drug court.  The stories are powerful and amazing.  The fact that those on each side of the issue, along-side community members are listening to each story make it more powerful and more phenomenal.

Sometimes the very act of really listening to another escapes us.  I have really bad moments of this.  I was talking with a coworker, while wanting to check email.  I actually said this: “do you need me to pay attention?”.  I laughed, realized the problem in that and corrected my behavior.

In Restorative Justice the person least deserving/most obligated to listening meets with the person most deserving/least obligated (IF I put judgements on the experience of victim and offender – I don’t like to use judgements).  My point is that the power in kindness is so alive.  Kindness gets us to stop and help strangers.  Helping strangers is humanity.  Helping strangers that hurt you, that’s humanity+ and I get to see it all the time in Restorative Justice.  I’m curious about that.  My curiosity leads to the learning and experiencing of more and more Restorative Justice.

What’s captured your curiosity lately?  Are you learning and experiencing the world through that?

Weird, kinda freaky, totally needed and helpful . . . finding a ring.

I am in my empty nest transition, as I type that transitioning to what I don’t know.  Am I just an “empty-nester” now, do I get another title?  “Happy, single, independent, bird house”?

Anyway . . . I believe in cleaning and rearranging, it just stirs up the energy and you feel a little different.  I want to feel differently because feeling badly my motherhood flew by isn’t very productive.  A task I had in mind was the total cleaning of my car.  Windex the dash, the cup holders, vacuum the dirt, toss my co-pilots collection of items on her side of the car.  She stopped being a regular passenger once she had her own car, but I still left her candy wrappers, dvds and misc. trinkets in her door pocket.

So I need to tell you these pieces.  My Mom died when I was 20.  She struggled with breast cancer from the time I was 13.  We had “mother-daughter” angst to say the least.  We never got the chance to reconnect as an adult mother-daughter.  So I realize my reality for an adult mother – adult daughter bond is limited.  I might be experiencing my daughter (my only child) leaving with irrational fears about us reconnecting.  (I don’t know, don’t you Freud yourself once in a while?).

It has been Kris and Kylie for nearly all of her 18.5 years of life.  I was married for 6 months when she was 3, engaged and lived with someone for a few months.  I let another someone live with us, for just a few months.  That accumulates to approximately 1 year it wasn’t just us.  Ky had limited involvement with her Dad, I’d say a grand total of 3-4 months time her whole life.  To me that seems like we were pretty much a family of two.  I am having a hard time being 1, but I am working on it.

I was cleaning my car Saturday.  Working thru thoughts of my life being different, needing in a way for a bit of my surroundings to be different.  I dusted and cleaned and mulled over many a road trip, and hopes for more.  Realizing they hold the potential to be different. The glove box was open, and there on the edge, not in the glove box was a ring.  

I picked up the dirty piece of jewelry and wondered why it never fell on the floor.  I looked it over two rings, bound to each other.  It hit me.

Kylie and I will always be connected.

It was the 4th of July, and the last time I ever saw my Mom alive, was on the 4th of July.  I will always be connected to my Mother.

I examined the ring closer.  525 was stamped on this inside of one of the rings, my understanding is that would be considered sterling silver (925 is Tiffany Co. Silver).  Then amazing as it was this ring fit perfectly on my right hand.  I have large hands for a woman, I’m 5’9″ and not petite.

Ironically enough I had just reconnected with an old friend and she had a ring just like this, just engraved with the names of her children.

I kept the ring on, finished my cleaning, thought and thought if Kylie ever had something like this.  Tried to think how it stayed perched on the edge of my glove box.  I stopped caring about the past, and just delighted in the meaningful experience of having a physical object to represent the bond with my daughter.  A real physical thing I could see touch and feel.  I can play with the rings, they slip and mix around each other.

Once inside I got my silver cloth and shined up the new find.  I wore it awhile, then tried to take it off, I typically don’t wear any jewelry daily.  It sat in my jewelry dish for 10 minutes, I had to go back and put it on.  I think this ring finally found its owner.  I have no idea how it got to me, where it came from, but it is definitely mine now.

Personal, professional, private, public why it should all be one.

I have always supported the notion that as people we should be congruent between work and home.  We should hold values that reflect how we are with family and with coworkers.  We should consistently treat people well regardless of the relationship being blood or paycheck.  I need to remember that it extends to all my relationships within SCVRJP!  Clients, volunteers, co-workers and board members, I need to live my relationship values and the ones I have selected for myself and kindness, generosity and spirit.

Some blog posts emerge from my frustrations in life.  This blog is sometimes a problem solving place.  When I struggle with issues, its internal and dark.  Putting something out there in my blog, makes it very much in the light.  No matter how long you sit in the dark, when you turn on the light, the dark is gone.

Lucky for me, this blog is about Restorative Justice, and I when I lean on it for problem-solving it brings forward the philosophies and practices of Restorative Justice.

I am not perfect.  One of my character situations is taking things personally when it comes to SCVRJP.  I use situations to describe it because I will not label it positive or negative, because it is actually both, depending on how I use it.  My character situation is that I take things personally when it comes to SCVRJP.

I would like people to know the relationship I have to SCVRJP, and specifically some of the programs.  I took Restorative Justice Circle process and married it to public health issues like underage consumption, and teen driving.  I inherited Victim Impact Panels, but developed a story telling method.  I searched the internet for resources, evidence-based practices and spent considerable time, energy and used my judgement and logic.  These programs ARE a reflection of me, I created them.  I have sat with I am sure over a 1,000 people in the various Circles and processed with clients, volunteers, community members and others involved.  Spending my time, energy, talents to improve these programs.  Along the way my personality has been shaped by Restorative Justice philosophy and Circle approach, making it personal because of how it changed me for the good.  Believe me it makes you a better person, but it doesn’t make your situations go away.

I get an enewsletter to help me with my public speaking, specifically humor.  John Kinde, humor specialist recent recieved a negative “zinger” and in this post, he reflects on that.  His suggestions hit home, and when he reflected that he was being personally attached because jokes are a reflection of “logic and judgement”, “time and effort in design”, I got that. 

I’ve expressed feeling personally attacked and I’ve heard “don’t take it personally”.

I think that’s a little like telling a crime victim, “stop crying”.  You would never do that.  Victims feel victimized and they didn’t deserve it and it hurts.  Many victims have told me that before restorative justice they just didn’t feel understood.   Because of the manner we do our work, (restoratively) we deeply listen to people and give them the room to express themselves.  Regardless of the degree of severity of the crime (recognized by the legal label of the crime or our personal assessment) we don’t just state to people to “stop that”, when they are feeling mis-understood or not understood at all.

Thank you to John Kinde, because you went on to show you live your last name!  Kind with an E!  Your post shared that when we are in control of our attitude positive and negative.  Your post showed me that I can be kind to the people that tell me “don’t take it personal” and just be positive about it.  Just remind myself they only say that because they don’t understand.  Then I can smile, move on and enjoy my day.  I just leaned back in my chair, sipped my coffee, imagined the next person to say “don’t take it personally” and I smiled and whispered “ok”.  I feel great!

So if you’ve read this post recognize that we should take things personal, we should invest ourselves completely with our mind, body and soul.  We should also as John reminded us, personally focus on a positive attitude as well.