Restorative Justice accountibility means understanding the context.
Context, it is understanding things in perspective to other things. I think we underestimate the importance of context. For example, it is 2:20am and I have to be leading a Circle in 7 hours. I should be sleeping. This blog is burning in my brain and I need to be typing it out. Right now. Context for you. You now have a little more perspective on something around this blog post.
Social emotional context. Social emotional skills involve walking into a room and picking up if the individuals were just at a funeral or a birthday party. I’ve had great waitresses, they pick up what is going on at the table and respond with the level of engagement and tone, reflective of our tone at the table.
It bugs me when apology letters are dished out early and expected immediately. Obviously my first choice is to explore a restorative option. Plan A, direct victim, plan B surrogate victim or community members. How can you write a letter of apology without really knowing and understanding the harm you caused. How, immediately after you have been sanctioned, judged, found guilty, can you focus on the other, when you feel the direct target?
In my work with loss of life cases, traffic fatality mostly, I see different levels of “acknowledging you caused the harm”. This “acknowledging you caused the harm” is the first step to restorative justice. Two environments – anything you say will be held against you, the other, confession is good for the soul. Traffic fatality situations, contain little intentional behavior. We could debate about the decision to drink, which is intentional, and the decision to drive, or does the decision to drink, take away the decision you make to drink and drive, cause the decisions we make impaired are seldom the decisions we would make stone cold sober.
Real accountability, starts with acknowledging you caused the harm, and people leave behind the debate: “I didn’t mean to do it”. Full accountability is void of “ya, buts” or “if only”. Full accountability is difficult. Taking full responsibility, “I’m wrong”, “I made a mistake”, “I own this 1,000%”, is not common everyday behavior. However, it can be come the expected standard in criminal justice interventions and occasionally in restorative justice expectations.
When you really mean something you don’t have to say it. You just live it. You live it in your values. You don’t need to go around telling people because you know actions speak louder than words. Your character is so much inside of you, you don’t need the language of explaining it. Real, deep down, restorative justice accountability is like that. I believe it comes from understanding context. You can’t understand the harm you caused until you understand the context.
Context from crime, means hearing about the impact. Context means understanding, deeply and directly understanding the others perspective. The most accountable to fatalities, have been those who have attended the funeral service of their victims. That probably seems odd to understand. Not all crime is between strangers, random individuals. Most people drink with their friends or coworkers, it stands to reason, they can be impacted in traffic fatalities caused by impaired driving.
The context is the story around the story. Understanding context allows you to mental map where you are. The map of the heart, the social and emotional aspects of context can be gained in Restorative Justice. Once you know where you are, what you have caused, then and only then, can you start the path to making it right for others and for yourself.