I’ve been home a few days and I am still in “awe” over my experience at the Idaho Juvenile Justice Association Conference. It really struck me how hard people are working to engage young people in meaningful, healing relationships. The fact this is good for community, reduces harms and builds safer, healthier adults was really understood.
Taking ‘restorative’ language to court paperwork, community service and moving to engage victims demonstrated real and intentional creation of healing and accountable process. True system change was happening and in the process of happening.
I prepared presentations trying to address my audience. As a former juvenile justice supervisor, I know the day-to-day caseload demands often trump the development of a new program or service. It was important for me to present the information in a way that demonstrated how SCVRJP does session AND provide workers with some tools for the ongoing models of supervision.
I know some real dynamite, dedicated and awesome juvenile justice workers. I know they have a spark, a passion and a real LOVE for the work. I think that is the kind of love for the work, that leads to accountability in individuals. Restorative Justice accountability begins with acknowledging you’ve caused harm.
If people deny their role in a harmful act, I believe that comes from two places. 1) the fear of punishment or 2) the loss of self-worth to be associated with such a harmful act. To care about someone means to hold how they feel about themselves in regard. When offenders deny, minimize or flat-out lie about involvement, some are quick to judge and label the person. Labels take away humanity.
Working with people to take accountability can be especially hard when the person didn’t mean to cause the harm. The intentionality for the doer, is how they judge themselves. Consequences of choices exist, meant to or not. It is the traffic fatality cases that have taught me so much about holding people accountable with care and connection. It comes down to that great Gayle King quote:
Kids don’t care what you think, until they think you care.
Holding care and connecting to an individual as a human being, means looking beyond the act/incident of harm. Restorative Justice is about HEALING and ACCOUNTABILITY. A caring, non-judgmental adult who is truly interested in the well-being of a teen, especially teens that have broken the law, is a gem of a person if you ask me. I was in a treasure box of gems in Idaho.