This article:  Restorative Justice and Social Work links the core values of social workers to Restorative Justice Practice.

It is from 2002, but I really appreciate how well written it is. 

I used to work for Amicus, and it makes me proud the author lists it as an impressive program.

I found this gem on a website I have been spending a lot of time on:  You should check it out!  Best Practices, stories, research!

For those not on my megatrend, Restorative Justice explained, it’s as clear as time on a clock to me!

I recently found a  recorded interview: Dr. MikeRestorative justice.  The name caught my attention.  I couldn’t even finish listening.  I found the interviewer to be, (uhhh, imagine I’m in a Circle) less than neutral on the topic.  I started to have empathy for Mikhal Lyubansky.  Although we have never met in person, I appreciate him.  He’s written for Psychology Today and he frequently includes some of my Circlespace blog posts on Twitter.  We are Facebook friends, so I wrote him a brief message, offering my support.  I offered a connection to Path To Justice, with Herb Blake.  Herb has a conversation and creates a friendship with his interviewees’.  By the way, that’s a great way to listen and get to meet some Restorative Justice personalities.  If you are a reader here and doing the work, connect with Herb.

Mikhail sent me the blog post, written by the person who interviewed him.  She is not on my megatrend wave. This blog post demonstrates that she doesn’t have a great deal of understanding about Restorative Justice.  I’ve seen that happen, trying to explain restorative justice is like trying to describe the ocean, with a shot glass of salt water.  So I have brought it down to this as a brief overview, and teaching/training tool:

What is Restorative Justice?

Restorative process brings those harmed by crime or conflict, and those responsible for the harm, into communication, enabling everyone affected by a particular incident to play a part in repairing the harm and finding a positive way forward.


Restorative Justice, my thoughts now, my explanation, in the 300 words left for this post.

Think of a clock.  These are individual and separate, yet they layer over each other.

  • Please consider that Restorative Justice is the face of the clock:
  • Settings:   12-3 o’clock Pre-diversion, 3-6 o’clock Diversion, 6-9 o’clock Court-ordered, 9-12 o’clock Incarceration. 
  • Issues:   12 o’clock Conflict, 3 o’clock Property crime, 6 o’clock Crimes against people, 9 o’clock Violent crimes – 11:59 Death, loss of life cases.
  • Partners:    12-3 o’clock Community, 3-6 o’clock Schools, 6-9 o’clock Court-alternatives, 9-12 o’clock Probation/Parole and Prison settings.
  • Wrong-doings:   12-3 completely an accident, 3-6 lack of skill or understanding of the rules, 6-9 to resolve my problem (crimes from addiction, trauma) 9-11:59 the malice, those with pathology.
  • Participants:   12-3 Community, 3-6 those harmed, 6-9 the author of the harmful act, 9-12 Circle-tator and supporters.
  • The Process:   The clock is a Circle.  My recommendation, a Restorative Justice Circle.
  • Circle Stages: 12- 1  Getting Aquainted, 3-6 Building Relationships, 6-9 Addressing Issues, 9-11:59 Taking Action.
  • The philosophy:   Howard Zehr, has 3 pillars, yet 4 words – one for each quarter on the clock: Harms/Needs/Obligations/Engagement!

Time is a constant, we can’t make is pause.  Like time, Restorative Justice is always there, and like time it depends on how you are going to use it!  



Ask yourself, apology or acknowledgement? What repairs your heart?

Recent comment on somebody else’s blog:

There will be no justice in this community, until someone apologizes for what they have done to others. Get my drift?

I thought,  “really“?  Because I don’t think “sorry” is enough.  I think acknowledgement is much more important.  I would rather have, “yes, I acknowledge your feelings, I acknowledge I am responsible for that”.  It puts me in a place of doing something about it.  What if the person, says “I’m sorry” but they still don’t think they did anything wrong?  Is that justice?

I have a childhood memory of being a little kid, having a fight with my brother, he’s 2 years younger and I bet we were 3 & 5 at the time.  My perspective was that HE would always get ME in trouble.  I was NEVER at fault, he would cry bringing in Mom, and I’d be responsible.  He tattled on me, Mom told me to say “sorry”.  I said “no”.  He screamed louder.  I said “Fine, SWOORRRYYEEEE”.  I didn’t mean it.  I am sure, I was plotting my revenge . . .  as soon as Mom left the room.

I believe good Restorative Justice practice leaves the apology and the forgiveness to the side.  It’s on the SIDE, because what is front and center is the dialogue.  The discussion of “here’s how I was impacted”, “here’s how I was harmed”.  It’s about a relationship dynamic where people will take the time, make the space and listen to each other.

Something amazing about Restorative Justice,  apology and forgiveness come in when they are meant to arrive.  You don’t have to force it, you don’t have to focus on it.  I believe the flip side of grief is healing.  When something is the other side of the same coin, the flip side, that means aspects are very common.  For example, grief and healing are both very individualized and personal experiences.  I don’t believe any two people grieve the same or heal the same.  There are common themes people experience with loss and there are common symptoms people experience.  The journey to each is our own individual, self-directed relationship.

As a restorative justice practitioner, I practice from that kid that learned, being forced to say I’m sorry, meant I didn’t mean it.  One of my pet peeves is seeing a court order that requires a letter of apology within 30 days and restorative justice as recommended.  How can you say sorry, or write that letter of apology before you even know how you harmed someone?  Some victim advocates are concern restorative justice will re-traumatize a victim, what about a forced letter of apology?  How can you really apologize when you don’t even know the whole story of how you impacted someone.  Time and time again with Restorative Justice – the individualized experience makes the impact.  My point in this blog post – focus on accountability and acknowledgement and then apology will come.

As a practitioner you prepare and explore the person who caused harm, to take responsibility.  Usually at the end of that acknowledgement is the I’m sorry.  A well-meaning and sincere I’m sorry.  If you don’t know where victims are at, you risk pushing the standard script person A: “I’m Sorry”.  Person B: “I forgive you”.  I think it is okay, and empowering for victims to say, I can’t forgive you, I don’t forgive you.  (I just always plant the seed, and acknowledge that’s where you are today, and that is ok.)

If the focus is NOT to have people do that script, but to have a more deep and meaningful dialogue, you are doing deeper restorative justice.  If parties want to go there, which some do, it doesn’t mean to stand in the way of that either.  You carefully, negotiate both needs.  I recently wanted to end some friction, and I took responsibility for the conflict, said I was sorry.  It sort of took the wind out of the other person’s sail, I could tell there was more to be said.  It was if I burst the balloon, instead of letting the air seep out, making noise.  I think the other wanted to have it seep out, screeching.  LOL, I guess that tells me how I felt about it!  I didn’t have time for that.  Oh crap, now I realize maybe I didn’t mean it, I said it to end the conflict.  Hmm, I better go work on my restorative self a little!  Clearly the person wanted my accountability and NOT my apology.

In Restorative Justice process, you teach people and make the time for them to have a deep and meaningful dialogue.

This video is an excellent example:  Jo’s Story – Surving Rape.

Upcoming Conference on Kids, Courts and Schools – presenting a session: Kris Miner

The link will provide you the conference brochure and registration forms.

Kids, Courts & Schools September 29

I’m really excited about the pre-conference workshop for Judges, that will be promoting the use of Restorative Justice Circles!  I get to promote using community members as storytellers!  I will be writing a workbook to accompany the training and I plan to offer it on this site, so check back in October!

Circlekeep, Circlekeep, Circlekeep. The best path to a Circle-tator, or Circle facilitator.

The Circle keeper is the person who facilitates the Circle.  The word “facilitator” is not used because it implies a more formal role.  More formal meaning the power of hierarchy is used instead of the power of inclusion.  The power of inclusion means you are using interconnectedness, equality and respect.  Interesting enough, the power of the relationship is a dynamic in bully behavior.  Hmm, that would mean Circles are a nature counter-measure to bully behavior without even having to address bullying.  It just can’t happen in a well run Circle, because the well run Circle is based on the power of inclusion.  You can’t do inclusion without all being equal, including the facilitator/circle-keeper.

Circle-tator is my new word.  I don’t like it because is could be a reminder of the word dictator, which is the opposite of a Circle-tator.  I do like it, because I love tator tots.  So tator may be in, Circle-tator may be not.  My first ADD moment of the day!

The blog title is emphasizing the importance of practicing the skill of Circle-keeping.  Get yourself into situations where you get to PRACTICE, before addressing a deeper emotional topic.  My background is in therapy.  I have a Master’s Degree in Counseling, did an internship at a student counseling center, was an in-home and private agency therapist.  I worked with difficult families in the child protection and juvenile justice system.  My caseload was seriously emotionally disruptive and violent adolescents, when I was introduced to Restorative Justice.  There wasn’t much I hadn’t heard, from incest to jail rape, my clients had experienced lots of life’s harm.  I walked with my clients through a boyfriend stabbed and dead, a ER visit for a rape exam.  My education provided my a backdrop for counseling theories and professional boundaries.

I mention this, because when in Circle, people will share.  The will be open with information that has impacted their lives.  Not all impacts are warm and fuzzy.

So keep Circles as practice to develop your skills, then take on deeper issues.  To keep a Circle KNOW inside and out, the core elements that make a Restorative Justice Circle. (read this, this and this).  The Circle Core elements are from Kay Pranis – Peacemaking Circles, Little Book of Circle Process and Doing Democracy with Circles.  Pranis, in Doing Democracy, gives us that Circles should be based on 2 things: Values and Reflection on Indigenous Teachings.  Really take pause, and consider if you are connecting to Indigenous Teachings.

The six structural elements, (Pranis)


Talking Piece




Consensus Decision-Making

Use ceremony,  meaning an open and a close, and intention.  This is where you as the keeper need to explain the deeper value of a Circle for humanity, not just yourself.  This comes from experience and understanding the shape and power of a Circle.  By using a way to identify Values (paper plates exercise), and using consensus to agree to the guidelines of a Circle, you are on your way to being a Circle-tator.

With experience comes wisdom.  You need to get Circle-keeping experience.  I did it by creating Circles to keep.  I found a woman in my community and we hosted a woman’s Circle.  I set up a Circle for my teen daughter.  You have to have a deep reverence, for the process. 

To effectively and skillfully lead Circle, you have to be willing to take another journey.  That is the journey to the center of your soul.  You need to figure out who you are.  However, liking tator tots is completely optional for being an effective Circle-tator.

IDK, could restorative justice be headed towards “megatrend” status?

Megatrends are the great forces in societal development that will very likely affect the future in all areas the next 10-15 years.  (Copenhagen Institute)

I’m a PhD student at Capella University, in my Diversity in the Workplace text, I ran across the word “megatrend” .   The word was not defined, and I have found various definitions on the web.  A megatrend is global.  A megatrend impacts at least a decade.  Some say, emotion first and reason second.   A megatrend has to do with large-scale change.  There is even an abbreviation, M-T. 

I’ve been around Restorative Justice since 1998.  I fell in LOVE with Circles shortly after.  I’ve worked for some great agencies that have allowed me to explore and apply Restorative Justice.  From Proactive Community Supervision, (teaming law enforcement and social workers for a positive visit) to a Family Group Decision Making team and then direct services using Circles. I have been part of transformations.  Police officers getting to the doorway of home, not because of a 911 call or investigation, helped them.  It helped the community, the family and the social worker.  That was a significant change in the way of doing work.  Family Group Decision Making engages the clients themselves in information sharing and decision-making.  It is all good social work, it is just approached differently.  These were projects at the beginning of the decade.

In the last 6 years as a full-time restorative justice director, I have gotten to see significant change.  On our local level SCVRJP has grown from a budget of $20,000 to $160,000.  We began by serving 35 people in 2003 and ended last year reaching 4,908, that’s 10% of the population in one of the two counties we serve.  That has to mean some critical mass about Restorative Justice has to be taking shape.  I remember picking up a local paper and two of the people on the front page had been in Circle! 

I did a presentation to my local Rotary club, it was my “classification talk”.  This talk was about me, my career, my hobbies.  I must admit, a heavy theme of Restorative Justice emerged, my volunteer efforts are with 2 other Restorative Justice programs.  I tried to minimize the amount of talk around Restorative Justice, hoping to come back for a presentation on that!  Our club president is a retired alternative school administrator.  When no one in the club had questions, and we had 5 minutes left in our meeting she related the following story:

I was part of program, where I asked Kris to come in and address a problem, where I was the victim.  I knew it was going to be good, I had no idea it was going to be THAT GREAT.  One of the parents, who had been a “problem parent” even participated.  You could tell the change, we all left with change.  For the rest of the school year, those two girls involved, would have done anything for me.  They realized the impact they had on me. It is a powerful program, and works very well.

I had to pick my chin up.  I noticed a tear on her face.  I remembered that case, I remembered how the community members shared their impact.  A group of students had been trained in the process, I remember a frantic call “Kris, we need a Circle TOMORROW”!  The students themselves planned it all out.  I used to share the story as an example when I did training.  It was 5 years ago, and this administrator spoke of it like it was yesterday.

In another setting, I was trying to explain Restorative Justice.  I was being challenged.  Suddenly a testimony from the person seated next to me.  The debate was over, when this was shared:

As a juvenile, I got involved in some bad things.  My friends and I thought we were just making money for ourselves.  We got into selling drugs, carrying guns, we didn’t think we hurt people in our community.  We hurt people, people in other areas.  I got caught up in it, I was arrested, I had drugs, guns, ammunition.  I was sent to juvie for 2 years, I only had to do 18 months.  When I got out my probation officer told me I was going to meet with some people.  She called it restorative justice, I didn’t know what it was, I was just going to do it.  I can remember going into that room like it was yesterday, it was like 10 years ago.  I saw people I recognized, they were from my community.  They told me, how I scared them.  Someone, a grown man, said if he saw me outside, he didn’t go to work.  I was told how the drugs I sold to someone’s cousin, she became a prostitute, someone else was homeless.  I never realized what I had done.  Them talking to me, that made more impact that the 18 months, in that hour, hour and a half, I changed. 

I was chatting with another Circle trainer, stories & testimony about the positive impact of Restorative Justice came from the training session participants.  That kind of thing didn’t happen, 5 years ago, certainly not 10 years ago.  I can feel a swell in the experiences, the connections to Restorative Justice and Circles.

M-T: global, emotional, decade, large-scale change.

We know Restorative Justice is global, we know it has moved from emotion to reason (check out the research articles  Some of us have more than a decade of work in, I see it being around for a few more.  Large-scale change, you bet, the examples people share are about deep impacts, and the fact that the stories are emerging among and from us, tells me we might working towards tipping the scales.



To argue is to be heard. Find the arguement and facilitate Restorative Justice.

One of my all time favorite bloggers is Penelope Trunk.  I like her because I emailed her a career question and she answered me.  In addition, she’s a great blogger role model.  In reading her post today, I followed a link about “social skydiving” .  I checked that out, Trunk consistently provides interesting links.  I found myself in “blog-trance”, reading post after post, clicking on the “most popular” or “others you might like”.  Blog-trance is like story-trance, you are glued to the topic, interested, time doesn’t matter.  Some may call it “flow“.  Then I found this gem, on the new blog: 

People argue to make themselves heard.

That’s a good quote.  In the middle of a discussion about energy vampires, the truth of an argument is that seldom do people go “oh, ya, your right”.  Of course the backdrop of my mind is Restorative Justice.  I thought about the teacher that shared student behavior has improved because the kids are “heard” in Circle.  They don’t need to act out for attention.

This You Tube is a TERRIBLE example of a Circle.  There is SOOOOOO much wrong with it.  However, if you watch it you will see that at the end, the “reason” for the bully behavior.  The student shares in the end, outside of Circle, why she behaves as she does.  PLEASE NOTE – what is portrayed in the video is NOT a Restorative Justice Circle!

The reason I link to this example is that – listening did not happen first.  When you do a Restorative Justice Circle – you start with setting the stage.  You bring in values, you establish some communication before the incident.  I believe doing this sets us up to be listened to.  By speaking about other items before the critical conversation – trust and safety emerge.

It is amazing what emotional hot topics can be placed into Circle.  When people listen to each other a transformation happens.  I’ve heard many victims, acknowledge that the Circle itself is “repair” enough.  By finding what the argument is, before going into the Circle – you can uncover what people need to be “listened” about.  Pre-conference meetings are important.  If you are doing this in schools, make SURE your students are familiar with the process BEFORE trying it on a conflict or argument.  Be very skilled yourself as a keeper – if you move in to help in these kinds of Circles.

I turned a controlled substance class around using this.  Those attending began to speak to justifications about their substance use, and the negative “misconceptions” about pot use.  So I picked up the talking piece and gave space for people to speak to the stereotypes of pot smokers.  I let the participants be “heard” and they stopped arguing.  They turned to listening, and when our speaker (during the addressing issue stage) shared his story, the relationship to pot was seen in a different light.  We went on to talk about the cycle from non-use, to use, abuse, addiction and back to non-use.  I asked the Circle about their experiences and sure enough, they all had examples that made the case that pot can destroy lives and have negative impact.  The participants themselves taught the topic to each other.  That’s the amazing thing about Restorative Justice, engage those most impacted and they can impact each other.  Just listen enough to stop the argument.

To teach Restorative Justice, have “treats” repair harm and remember best practices.

When I began teaching Restorative Justice, my motives were about being in Circle with the same set of people for 16 weeks.  A post somewhere on this blog explains learning about people teaching in Circle.  I was at the 1st National Conference on Restorative Justice and a meeting was added in with Howard Zehr.  I knew about his study guides on the Good Books Website.  Another new friend shared his syllabus and I was on my way.

I knew MUCH more about Circles and Restorative Justice than I knew about young adult development and teaching methods.  I love to train and had a few years of training experience by this point, so that part didn’t concern me.  My priority was merging Restorative Justice practices into the class experience.  I wanted to emphasize the Circle as my teaching “mode”.  The educational experience was to be at the Center of the Circle, and the educational topic was Restorative Justice.

I can still picture that very first Circle of students, I remember names and faces and stories.  It was a meaninful event in my career.

A few of the practices I use to enhance the “Restorative-ness” of teaching Restorative Justice:

4 stages of Circle.  Each class/CIRCLE includes an open and close, a getting acquainted question, a building relationship question and for our issue, we talked course content.  The taking action phase of the Circles was the “check-out”, “take away” or “reflection” on the class period.  One thing I remember, is that college students seemed to enjoy original thought.   We would have different aspects of the class time, or different perspectives presented when we did this ending.  It also allowed for students to relate to each other and have a different understanding on the topic taught that day.  The students taught each other what they learned.

Student/Teacher.  I intentionally focus that equality in Circle, means we are all students, we are all teachers.  Remembering this, practicing from this point means flowing in and out of my “authority” position in the class.  I kept the Circle and I also instructed the class.  I learned as much from my students as they did from me, it was just “different” types of learning.  When you empower each person to be “teacher” when they have the talking piece and “student” when they do not, you pave the way for them to listen with a specific intention.  You set up the Circle questions to work this magic into your teaching.

Engage the triad.  Referring here to Victim/Offender/Community.  I was fortunate to have a local business man taking the course, he was on “audit” status.  He brought an adult community perspective, the diversity added to our class experience.  I brought in volunteers from SCVRJP, both speakers to storytell and community volunteers to explain and experience Circle as a community member.  One requirement for the students is to attend an SCVRJP session and participate as a community member.  It was noted in many papers that the students themselves were also “offenders” who had not been caught (underage drinking or impaired driving), however they found transformation in attending and gratitude for experiencing the session without the additional consequences.  Our Circle questions also focused on sharing related to the triad.  For example, “tell a story about a time you caused harm, and how you repaired it”.  (Only to be used when the class was ready)

Treats.  I emphasis attendance, as all professors do.  I explain you cannot get the experience of the Circle if you miss class.  I also emphasis that we miss out on your perspective, when you miss.   After we have established class values I explain how WE the class, are harmed by the absence of any community member.  I let the students know bringing treats for the class is the way to “repair” that harm.  Even if I miss, I bring something!  We have had apples, mini-bags of chips, and cookies.  Eating and breaking bread together bonds a group.  Side note: many students share that my class has high attendance.

Just as a Restorative Justice process transforms the victim, the community and the offender – the restorative justice teaching experience transforms the learners and the teacher.  When you feel a deep meaningful connection to the work, you know you are in “best practice” flow of Restorative Justice.

Seth Godin’s “Tribe” advice, translated to Restorative Justice Practitioners.

Have you read Tribes by Seth Godin?  I recommend it.  The subtitle is We Need You to Lead Us.  I believe in the creation of leadership specific to Restorative Justice, we can’t lead in old models of hierarchy, coercion and force and expect to maintain and create really, Restorative programs, leaders, practitioners and advocates.  The overarching philosophies and practices of Restorative Justice need to be woven into the leadership practices of promoting Restorative Justice.  My pet peeve and motivation is to make sure we have a consistent definition and adhere to specific practices that really truly are “Restorative Justice”.

Storytelling.  A key component to healing, to restoration.  Story-trance and story-listening are skill-sets of a Restorative Justice practitioner.  Catch this from page 138 of Tribes:


People don’t believe what you tell them.

They rarely believe what you show them.

They often believe what their friends tell them.

They always believe what they tell themselves.

What leaders do: they give people stories they can tell themselves.  Stories about the future and about change.

“They always believe what they tell themselves”.  What do you tell yourself about Restorative Justice?  How do you facilitate people telling different stories about themselves, or about the other person in the harmful act.  Are you helping groups and communities tell themselves they need restorative processes? 

You can’t learn much when speaking. 

You can learn a lot when listening.

Listen to the stories you tell yourself, about Restorative Justice.  Listen to the stories others are telling, and invite them to tell different stories.  Stories change our lives and change our perspectives.  Restorative Justice allows those most impacted by being in community together (school-based), or by harm (incident based) to focus on repairing the harm together.  This kind of process is not currently part of the culture, however, I believe, it is still part of who we are.  It is our story to tell stories.  I invite you, to allow that, to be a story you tell yourself.

Corporate world, workplace discrimination responses mirror Restorative Justice.

Today is the day.  I knew studying for my PhD would weave into the blog.  Here it is a post with a reference.  I held out for over 3 months, I didn’t want to change the “voice” of Circlespace.  However, I ran into something to good, to not share.

I was reading TARGET PRACTICE: AN ORGANIZATIONAL IMPRESSION MANAGEMENT APPROACH TO ATTRACTING MINORITY AND FEMALE JOB APPLICANTS.  The article was speaking about how companies/corporations can use 6 tactics to restore a damaged reputation.  The first of those 6, is “accounts”, there are then 4 ways to respond to accounts.  The options are 1) Denial, 2) Excuses, 3) Justification and 4) Apology.  The article said that the most common, is denial.  Acknowledging is more favorably received and apologies and explanations work to re-establish cooperation and promote (improve) positive reactions.

My restorative justice bells and whistles went off!

How often do people who have caused harm try “it wasn’t me”, or “I didn’t do it”.  Our legal system promotes a not-guilty plea as part of the process.  I believe the fear of getting in trouble, trumps telling the truth.  If you don’t feel safe enough, or your fear of the punishment is too great, you aren’t likely to even acknowledge a mistake, let alone a harm.  Not acknowledging, is the same as denial.  Intentional or unintentional, denial is denial in the eyes of others. 

The next two responses Excuses & Justification – are things a restorative practioner works on with the party that has caused harm.  You want to make sure that you hear, what, how and why the excuses and justification developed.  A good restorative justice practitioner can dig into the situation, explore the beginning the middle and the end.  You have to come from a mindset that all behavior has purpose, and what was the purpose of the behavior.  You carefully hold non-judgement on this information.  Once heard people can usually go to the next step, and the next step is the first step of restorative justice accountability: Acknowledging you caused the harm.

I believe people find justifications for behavior.  Once you get at the underlying “justification” you can help people change their lives.  Here is an example and how SCVRJP uses Circles to change behavior. 

Justification:  All college students drink hard, I’m no different than anyone else.

Reality:  Over consumption can have serious risks/harms to self, family, society. 

Demonstrated change:  95% said the session would reduce exposure to risk of alcohol (5% said probably not, 70% said definitely, 25% said maybe)

90% said they would change (60% definitely, 30% maybe) and those that reported the session would “probably not” change behavior: 10% .

Restorative Justice Circles create a safe place to acknowledge harm.  It does help that those attended , have been sent to us by the courts, it is kind of hard to deny something after that process.  The use of community members, storytelling and real life examples hits the heart and promotes change.  You can’t argue with an experience.

Perhaps more companies will step towards workplace restorative justice, so people can get to more productive and healthy environments.  Handling “accounts” with denial, excuses & justifications aren’t the only options.  (I left out apology on purpose, since it is not a primary focus of RJ).   If  Restorative Justice can promote change for underage drinkers, I think it can restore corporate world reputation issues.