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 www.restorativejustice.org).  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.