I have the very good fortune of having a champion of Restorative Justice as a friend and mentor. Kay Pranis was the Minnesota Restorative Justice Planner. She’s seen so much in the field, she’s traveled the world teaching and training. She’s published books, journal articles, and well, she’s a voice of authority to me regardless. It is her quality of a person, her calm nature, her wisdom to guide my reflections, thoughts, questions. This quote, reminds me of Kay:
When you meet a being who is centered – you know it – you always feel a kind of calm emanation, it always touches you in that place where you feel calm.
The things we explore bring us back to key concepts, best practice, ethical efforts. As practitioners of Restorative Justice, I think being delicate, deliberate and dedicated as I have experienced Kay, and tried to be myself, is helpful.
Being delicate. Holding offenders accountable, while holding and creating a strong relationships. Relationships, respect, responsiblity the key pillars of Restorative Justice, can’t me created with force. Check out this link, at 2:30, the segment is promoting OWN Chalkboard Wars. I love how Gayle King puts it “if kids don’t think you care, they don’t care what you think”. Circles are the most powerful and effective ways to show kids you care, and to teach kids a way to care about each other.
One of the most important things to teach, when teaching people about Restorative Justice Circles, is structured silence. AND doing this has to be both delicate and deliberate. When you role model vs direct, inform, tell people how to behave, you have them learn for themselves. This takes a deliberate and dedicated embrace of equality. There are skills, activities, techniques, to bring youth in Circle to the respect of listening one at a time. This is where empathy develops, an equal exchange and balance of voices in the room.
Being dedicated to Restorative Justice, means avoiding shortcuts, or developing routines, it means continuous exploration of the meaning and purpose of Restorative Justice values. Each case is unique and should be treated as such. For example, victims should be given the choice of being seated in the room, or walking in the room where the person who caused harm is seated. All sorts of responses from this evolve, however the CHOICE is empowering. Question yourself, discuss with a mentor.
Being delicate, deliberate and dedicated doesn’t mean without strength. One teacher, who uses Circle soooo effectively, kept a Circle for students (she’s a pro, doing at least 2 a day in her classroom). A co-worker, new to the process, experienced a Circle with her, and when it was done, the new coworker said “WOW, I didn’t know you were so powerful”, the teacher: “it’s not me, it is the Circle”.
Where are you most delicate? Where could you be more so? What are you very deliberate about, what could you do more intentionally? Thinking of these questions, will show your dedication to effective Restorative Justice practice.