Restorative Justice when offenders don’t want community involved.

How a restorative justice practitioner handles challenges in the preparation stage is very important.  One common challenge is those that caused harm, or their parents, push back against community involvement.  Thanks to the Ministry of Justice, Jamaica for this image:restorative-justice-three-parties

My recommendation so to find out where this resistance is from, try to understand the concern and then offer an appropriate response to move forward.  It is very important is to work through these concerns so those participating fully understand what the Restorative Justice goals are.  There are no shortcuts to doing effective restorative justice Tweet: There are no shortcuts to doing effective restorative justice. @krisminer http://ctt.ec/bdjfd+  These tips are designed to give you tools in your preparation for a successful Restorative Justice dialogue, in a conference or circle setting.

Top 3 reasons those that caused harm are resisting community involvement.

1) They think the process is punitive.  The person resisting the community has shame, and doesn’t want to have others judge them.

2)They might be worried about confidentiality.

3)They might not feel in control, or understand the process is voluntary.

Helpful, restorative responses:

  • Make an apology for your failure to explain things correctly.  Be so assured of the health of having community.
  • Re-explain the philosophy and approach.  Assure community is present to hold positive outcomes.  Some anxiety before is a meeting is normal, it’s because it is so important.
  • Be confident in the role of community, it is not an option for them not to be present.  Do this conversationally, not like you are dictating things.
  • If the person is worried that they know your community mentors, assure them that is a good thing!  That is how community works.
  • Validate the choices made to participate.  When a young woman scoffed at me “I’m only doing this do get out of being suspended”, I calmly responded “oh, Ok, you made the right choice.  Why don’t you want to be suspended?”
  • Assure the concerns by explaining how much volunteers are trained in the process, volunteers have signed confidentiality agreements.  Let them know that they are understanding, and are parents themselves, and every single person has made a mistake.  Reiterate the foundation and roots of restorative justice.
  • Tell a story about a time other people had similar concerns and how the session went very well.
  • Be sure to ask them about their resistance, don’t make assumptions.  If they ask you a question about the volunteers, you don’t need to answer, you can ask another question about why they are needing that information.
  • Maintain a respectful discussion and explore their needs, I’ve found the open honest discussion leads to a willingness to participate.

Other important factors are for you to take care of your volunteers . . . respect them as community holding valuable information and need for involvement.  They have been trained and take the time to participate, don’t exclude them because you put the person who caused harm in charge.  You are the facilitator . . . your job is to prepare people, not to have them prepare conditions.  The facilitator is the one with the most information about the way the process works.  Prepare, prepare, prepare.  If you can’t get consent for community, let the participant know you have to think about how to move ahead.  Ask them to also think about it.

Just as you prepare victims to know their needs, you prepare those harmed to know their fears.  Once they are out on the table they can be addressed.  To move forward and try restorative justice without the community is excluding a KEY and CORE practice.