St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program, SCVRJP began from an idea, just 12 and a half years ago and now services and programs have reached nearly 2,000 in just the first half of 2012. Many dedicated board members, staff, volunteers, supporters and partners have helped develop and create the nonprofit that “promotes peace & belonging utilizing restorative justice principles & practices” (the mission of SCVRJP).
The nature of Restorative Justice is involve the community in repairing harm. What Restorative Justice views as harm, is often times often labeled by a particular crime or violation of school code. Harm, is anything that violates the integrity of another person. Many times that can extend beyond what laws offer for protection. If harm doesn’t have the criminal or legal definition, then those systems can’t engage as they might with situations that meet criminal and legal definitions. SCVRJP focuses on our mission and addresses peace & belonging from building community to responding to crime and harm.
Our work with schools has been developed over time. Our services are offered and accepted as schools find value in the process of Circles and the use of Restorative Measures.
The mission of peace & belonging was demonstrated as SCVRJP was busy, helping teachers that will be using Circles as part of an advisory program. Demonstrations and trainings included student mentors (upper classmen) to have role models in the freshman advisory groups. It was easy to train on this topic, since SCVRJP engages community mentors in Circles. Volunteers that support the philosophy, role model the process and provide input to repair the harm. The feedback from these Circles was positive, that students and staff were able to see each other in a different light. Confidence was built about using the Circle process and each Circle no matter the topic improves and builds your connections to community. SCVRJP hosted 7 Circles in one afternoon!
When the harm in our community, the harm of suicide became a concern and a public forum (2010) was held, SCVRJP responded with Circles to support those impacted. This has evolved into an entire program of services called Restorative Response. Now SCVRJP is and can be present for any group requesting a Circle after being impacted by sudden, tragic loss – often times in situations of homicide, suicide, traffic fatality, drug overdose. SCVRJP also offers monthly support group, Restorative Response Circles (6 week sessions) and informal support through a volunteer, match by the bereavement relationship (parent to parent, spouse to spouse). This program also includes a Grieving Families Guide, which developed after a state trooper listened, and created a resource. An SCVRJP volunteer, brought that resource to SCVRJP and asked, “can we do this”? The Guide was distributed on May 31, 2012, and the resource is available to area law enforcement, medical responders, hospitals, grief support groups and is intended to be delivered within the first 48 hours of an un-natural death. For more details or to obtain copies contact SCVRJP at SCVRJP@gmail.com. For those outside our service area, the resource can be purchased at a minimal cost to cover printing.
SCVRJP connects with community issues, and attends as many requests as possible. The O’Connell Funeral Home and St. Bridgets Church hosted a Grief speaker, Richard Obershaw, author of Cry until you Laugh. SCVRJP hosted a information table, shared resources and connected with community members. The presentation included the importance of storytelling and sharing grief, the same methods the Restorative Response program provides. Nonprofit networking includes being present for those that are sharing your message and collaborating with partners to build on strengths and connections. These connections can them promote your mission and others relate our message.
I was saying thanks for the opportunity, and I had to ask who suggested SCVRJP as a resource. I was informed the suggestion came from several different places, “your marketing is working well”. I smiled knowing that the best marketing is a service delivered well. If peace & belonging our experienced people say good things. It is each “good thing” that builds on another. SCVRJP is conducting Circles around some very painful topics, and with some very tender audiences. The responses are very positive, without our history and background, those doors would not have opened and those invitations not made. We owe those that have paved the way, as much as we owe those willing to openly express their grief, trauma, resilience and reflections on harmful incidents. That is community pulling together and that is what promotes the mission of peace & belonging.