5 options to make Teen Court more restorative.

Typically when I blog about teen court (links to past posts), I am providing examples about how it is not really Restorative Justice.  I have learned and recognize there are many different models and versions of Teen Court.  I do appreciate the youth development and alternative approach that teen courts can provide.  I am going to use today’s blog post to offer 5 specific ideas on how Teen Court programs might become more restorative.

  1. Decisions about you, should be made with you.  This includes offenders/offending behavior.  Restorative Justice belief: exclusion is a form of violence and violence begets violence.  I am assuming the point of teen court is to “right the wrong” in a way that prevents future harm.  Mixing it up and involving youth offenders in decisions that impact them can be a step towards being more restorative.  This would mean teen juries don’t leave the room.  This would mean the “judge” doesn’t make the final decision without input from all parties.
  2. Move the focus from the procedure of others representing the offender and the victim.  Restorative Justice belief: Justice involves belonging and community.  When another person is involved in presenting/representing/speaking for someone there can be negative consequences.  The speaker might not have the “voice” of the person they are representing.  The silent party might feel on the outside, versus being included.  Restructuring the representation to include direct contribution would make the court more restorative.
  3. Train the youth in Restorative Justice Circles or at very least alternative sanctions.  See what the youth find for comparing and contrasting the two (court or RJ process).  Explore the ideas generated by the youth.  If it really is the “teen’s court” or “youth court” give the students more knowledge, information and skills to work from.  Restorative Justice belief: Restorative Justice is organic and grows in ways and areas reflective of the community.  In my experience courts develop routine and procedures, and those procedures become the focus instead of finding individual case by case accountability.
  4. Use the Restorative Justice questions to learn about the “harm”.  Restorative Justice Belief:  Crime/conflict is harm to relationships, those most impacted, are most relevant to making things right.  Ask what happened, who was impacted, what is needed to make things right.  Focus the discussion and exploration of the incident on ways that frame up the context of the incident.  Rather than proving right/wrong, guilty/not guilty look to identify systemic challenges that contributed and seek solutions rather than punishments.
  5. Dismantle the physical hierarachy.  At very least, shape into a Circle.  Restorative Justice Belief:  Peacemaking Circles are a process with a specific philosophy and key elements. I remember being horrified at a professional conference and seeing a Circle demonstration where the talking piece was used by those in Circle to take turns asking shaming questions of the offender.  At the same moment I was proud of my coworker, when her head spun toward me in disbelief!  We don’t know what we don’t know.  If you are going to do Peacemaking Circles, I suggest getting training, practice and more training and practice.  I do recommend trying to be a bit more restorative and instead of tables across from each other, or people sitting in structures of role, you simply move to a more democratic seating arrangement.

If you test any of these, please let me know how it turns out.  Years of experience in many, many kinds of Circles, I do depend and promote the use of Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circles, it is my bias.  However, I have come to learn that small changes can have big impact.  I also heard myself tell a training audience . . . “you have to crawl before you can walk and walk before you can run”.  Maybe one of these 5 will move a Teen Court towards running full speed with Circle process!

Living the Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle Assumptions, one conversation at a time.

There are 7 core assumptions that Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circles utilize.  Link Here

  1. The True Self in Everyone Is Good, Wise, and Powerful
  2. The World is profoundly Interconnected
  3. All Human Beings have a Deep Desire to be in a Good Relationship
  4. All Humans Have Gifts & Everyone Is Needed for What They Bring
  5. Everything We Need to Make Positive Change Is Already Here
  6. Human Beings are Holistic
  7. We Need Practices to Build Habits of Living from the Core Self

-Kay Pranis & Carolyn Boyes-Watson

I came across this on Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/p/-y6w4ChiIf/

The instagram and comment by Waylon Lewis, reminded me of the first Circle Assumption, the TRUE SELF is good, wise and powerful (tweet).  How might things be if we didn’t even debate this, but just treated each other as if this was.

Conversations with each other would be different.

Promote self-control, use “me” statements in Circle process.

Like most people, I don’t like to be interrupted or have my thoughts completed incorrectly.  Well, what, I judged as incorrect.  Any well-versed Circle person knows there is no right or wrong.  At these moments of frustration, I have learned to try to “observe” and consider why it seems “wrong”.   Thank you to those that shared before I finished, saying you understood sharing with the talking piece as using “I statements”.  It didn’t quite fit and it’s taken me awhile to know why.  No disrespect to the “I statement” approach, which reduces blame, shame and conflict between individuals.  I’m proposing “me-statements” for use in Restorative Justice Circle process.

Me-statements are used to speak from the heart.  To relate your experience or your truth.  Talking in “me” means: for me . . . , about me . . . , this happened to me . . . , because of me . . ..  We have gotten conditioned to avoid being all “me, me, me” which implies being selfish.  I’m not locking into the exclusive use of the word “me”. I’m talking about a perspective here.  The me, perspective means having accountability, self-control and the ability to express yourself vs being selfish.  Knowledge of “me” is emotional intelligence and a social-emotional skill-set.  Teaching students and those in Restorative Justice process to speak from “me” provides a deeper Circle experience.

Here are 4 reasons Me-statements are helpful in Circle.

  1. Speaking from belonging.  From the place of me, indicates you are part of a larger collective.  There is a we, and you are individually identifying your experience.  You are relating your story when you use the me perspective, you are speaking your truth.
  2. I, is a word of authority.  In Circle we are connecting to the equality of dignity and worth.  Me is less judgemental that I.  Me is balanced and we can all speak from me, we might not yet know the “I’s” (when you _____, I feel ____).  The basic Restorative Justice questions are how were you impacted, what did you think when you realized this happened, what do you think needs to happen to make things right.  Me-statements offer a perspective.
  3. Circles are not about giving advice.  To offer your wisdom in terms of “this worked for me . . .” or “what helped me . . . ” allows others to see you access your own inner strength and wisdom, and that is more beneficial than advice.
  4. Teach others to listen to the voice inside.  That’s the “me” voice or the intuition, the soul, the ego, whatever you would like to call it, it is the place inside that young people need to connect to, to make decisions when authority figures are not around.  Verbalizing from that place, in a Circle, strengthens the connection.

So the caution here is not to overly rigid, correct people using I statements.  The way to be “circle-like” is offer what works best, to be able to explain how me-statements benefit in Circle.  Get wisdom from Circle by asking people to talk about the difference between a me-statement and an I-statement.

Modeling is a Circle-keepers strongest resource.  Practice some me-talk and see how it impacts your conversations and your Circles.  Drop me a comment and let me know what you think!

 

Restorative Justice Circles talking or transformation, using key elements for change.

St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (www.scvrjp.org) has been doing 100’s of Circles a year, since 2006.  In that time we have successfully placed topics in the center of the Circle.  We have consistently used a structure, based on the work of Kay Pranis (more posts referencing Kay).  The key elements of a Restorative Justice Circles, have been featured in two books by Kay, the Little Book of Circle Process and Peacemaking Circles from Crime to Community.

These Circle experience spans school settings, severe crime and significant loss, to staff meetings structured with Circle and our many Circles held to address public health issues in our community.  Highlighted in this post, are the rationale and reasons for using the key elements.  Talking Circles provide connection and potential to repair harm.  To transform the way people see themselves and others in connection to community and to transform behavior instantly, try the Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle Elements, as described here.

A few of the commonly skipped or overlooked Key Elements:  Consensus to Values, 4 Stages.  A Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle is more than just using a talking piece.

Consensus to Values This aspect of Circle is more than just having people write on a paper plate.  This aspect is also designed to pull people together in a community that has decided how they will relate to each other.  The first steps of “community” if not geography, would be common interests.  A specific pass of the talking piece asking people to reflect on the values in the center, as part of the way of being together, deepens the connection before exploring topics, facing challenges or repairing harm.

4 Stages  (I am assuming you know these, there are many posts here highlighting) When we take time to do some questions, before the deeper conversation, or intention of the Circle, we are reminding people that we can make important connections by caring and learning about each other.  The simple content provides a context for common likes, it builds connection.  Some of my favorites lately have been to ask people about the next big accomplishment.  Fun results when I asked another training group to share 3 things about their shoes.

The final part when using the 4 stages, is to give opportunity for people in the Circle to identify their “take aways” or reflections on the experience.  This serves for people to identify quickly and immediately the benefit of the experience.  Like speaking to the Center in Circle promotes self – agency, so does speaking to your experience at the end of the Circle.  The use of the last phase helps us know we did good work together, it is another opportunity to allow people to share from the wise-centered part of who they are.  When doing Circles around trauma or emotionally heavy topics, it allows people to  prepare for returning to the un-structured everyday communication styles.

When you do more in Circle, than just employe a talking piece, you are creating space for safety.  Safety promotes vulnerability, vulnerability becomes a responsibility (tweet me) and a responsible keeper uses that for the greater good of  all in Circle.  Using the stages show respect and places the power, in each person and the Center of the Circle.

Key Elements Restorative Justice Circle

From “teacher” to “keeper”, for successful restorative justice circles.

There has been an amazing increase in school-based Restorative Justice Circles.  All across the United States, schools, districts, teachers and trainers have emerged.  There is an excellent blog at Edutopia, for schools implementing (by Dr Fania Davis).

Years of teaching teachers has provided experiences that if I want to leave skills where I train, I need to make the material relevant, useful, accessible to the students, and especially if I am training teachers.  In a recent webinar by the Zehr Institute, (you can view the webinar on the link), what I have learned was reinforced by those implementing school wide Restorative Practices.  The comments by Dr. Davis shares, about school culture, especially resonated.

One foundational key concept, is the relationship to Circle participants by the Circle Keeper. (click to tweet)

I use this image as a reminder.

shapes
(c)scvrjp

The square represents when people are on different sides.  Assumptions are made about the other “side”.  There is a win-lose, right wrong, above-below based on judgements of those on the opposite or different side.  The triangle represents power, at the very top, 1 person.  At the bottom, many people.  This is the typical structure in a classroom, or in a business or hierarchy.  The Circle, is where people connect to the center.  Spokes to the center, connected to the center, equal dignity and worth of each and every person.  The role of the keeper is to bring the best out, the ‘keeper’ in each person in the Circle.

Training provides tips and techniques for moving into the relationship dynamic of Circle.  Some teachers, will explain the move to students.  Those with deeper connections to relationships and stronger social-emotional skills are naturally able to move to this dynamic.  It takes practice, trust and open-ness to the concepts of Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circles.

Mid-november Circle Forward should be released, and it is my understanding this is part of the book.  I am looking forward to another resource for school-based/community building circles!  Pre-order at Living Justice Press.

Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle Advanced Training

Please join us in River Falls, Wisconsin in October.  On the 23rd and 24th, an advanced practice, School-Based Restorative Justice Circle Training will be held.  The two-day training will feature discussion, reflections and ideas for developing effective Keeping skills and for using Circles in a range of applications.  The 2nd will feature co-trainer Catherine Cranston, who have been using Circles since 2006.

Seats are limited, and the registration deadline is October 3.

Please see the flyer for more details and the registration form: Adv Circle Training Oct 2014

 

There is also a Circle Training at SCVRJP on October 9 & 10.  www.scvrjp.org.

If your school would like to host this training please contact me!

Peacemaking Circle Keeping 3 intentions, 3 activities, please.

I’ve been traveling and training and learning more and more what people are calling “Circle” and I am getting more and more concerned that we are missing some key elements.  Good work can be done in Circle.  Transformation, growth and self-discovery can be multiplied when we keep from a grounded center in the practice and elements of Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle process.  The foundation from Kay Pranis and the Little Book of Circles.  I’ve got 3 key intentions to use in your Circle keeping and then 3 activities to help promote those intentions.  These crossover and support each other, they help support each other.

When Circle Keeping, your role is to guide the process, as a model.  That means modeling a “Circle Hierarchy”, which would be an oxymoron!  The structure of Circle is one of equal dignity and worth.  A concept I have worked hard at teaching teachers is a different skill-set than classroom teaching.  The intentions of your Circles work best when coming from this place of equality.

Circle Intentions

It is not easy, you let go of commenting, redirecting, controlling the Circle.  The use of equality means taking time to offer opportunities to learn how Circle works best (vs ‘teaching’ it).  This works, and I know this from 1,000’s of Circles and the stories from those that keep Circle using this intention.

Coming from a place of Values, is another Circle intention.  This means living them as keeper.  Modeling them for everyone in Circle.  In a casual conversation some keepers shared with me, how they ask the kid that won’t share to say more.  That is disrupting the equality, and not instilling the value of respect.

Those plates, or the co-created Center guidelines are the foundation and Center of Circle, the basis for reaching the center of each person in the Circle.  You can’t build trust in the Circle, if as keeper you are not doing the same.

Inclusion in Circle is an intention for allowing room for all perspectives.  Check your keeping, are you really doing this.  Physically, are you making sure everyone in the room is in the Circle.  Is your Circle as round as possible, so everyone is knee to knee, shoulder to shoulder?  Mentally, are you preparing your questions, have you put thought into your Circle.  Have you considered what everyone else will think about the questions, the topics.  Have you invited as many perspectives as possible to the Circle?  That is a form of inclusion – to have the community voice, the hurt, the harmed and the people impacted.

3 Circle Activities that promote values, equality, inclusion

1) Stand and have people take one step in when they share.  Have them do two snaps when they finish, and the Circle do 2 snaps.  This activity shows the turns, and cues the listeners in, while giving them a role (to snap).  They track the speaker (role modeling, practicing one at a time).  This also engages people to take courage to share, everyone is asked to step in, one at a time (equality).

2) Y Chart.  Draw a Y on a plate, then add a drawing of an eye, an ear and a heart.  Ask people to share what it might look like, sound like and feel like if the values in the Center were in the Circle.  Any round with the talking piece that includes a deeper discussion or reflection on the values is value added.

3)Consensus/Commitment “action”, when having people commit to do their best with the values in the Center, include a verbal cue, but then also an action.  A thumbs up, pass a pinky finger handshake, or putting your foot in the center for two taps.

Join me at the Advanced Keeper Training, encouraging use of Peacemaking Circles in Schools!  October 23 & 24, 2014.

Circle Keeping, brain science connections.

St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (SCVRJP) has delivered 1,000’s of Circles and trained 100’s of people in Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle process.  Circles in kindergarten classrooms, museums, prisons, college campus, fire departments, churches and many at the Restorative Justice Center.

As our program demands grown, the need to teach people the art of Circle keeping has grown.  As a non-profit working alongside criminal justice systems, the need to be “evidence-based” is crucial.  Having great outcomes, it is important to maintain the success.  These means teaching others how to do powerful, meaningful, effective Circle keeping.  I have focused on this for years.  The increased demand in training requests, partnered with the requests to do a two-day training in half-a-day has caused me to be analytical in the delivery of quality training, effective skills and targeted strategies for Circle keeping.

At a recent training I shared the technique of contracting or expanding my explanation of Restorative Justice and Circle.  In the very beginning before the opening reading, when starting I suggest doing this.  A training participant asked me more about what I meant.  I explained speaking longer or shorter, and monitoring the emotional climate.  I was asked again what I meant.  I realized I had developed my “feeling” for it.  My intuition had developed from doing Circles so often.  The second nature of Circle keeping is living and expresing the values of Restorative Justice.

Right then in the training session, I started explaining what that meant.  I talked about body posture of others, eye contact, how I was feeling.  What are the clues to “knowing” when we are ready to start Circle.  I used words like: trust, calm, connection.  Today I found what it is by brain science!

A HUGE ah-ha!  In reading Words Can Change your Brain, by Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman, I noted the 12 Strategies of Compassionate Communication and powerful and making a TON of sense in the context of Restorative Justice.  I had to see if I could find a handout for this afternoons training.  It led me to learning the neural resonance also called neural coupling is a speaker-listener brain based connection!  THAT is the element to use when monitoring your Circle for emotional climate!

CompassCommunication

Creating Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circles how and why the relationship value question matters.

In Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle process, and every Circle facilitated by SCVRJP, we identify relationship values at the first round with the talking piece.This is extremely important and requires an understanding of how and why that is so important.  A teachable lesson emerged recently and can demonstrate why framing the question is so important.

Technique & How  

1) Ask people to identify a relationship. Hand out paper plates

2) Ask them to identify something really important in that relationship.  Avoid using the word “value”, you are going to go behind the social mask, by asking this indirectly.  Suggest what makes the relationship great, without it, it would not be the same.

3)Handout markers, asking them to write the word about that relationship on the plate.  Remind them of the non-judgmental context, lots of things make great relationships, to just pick one for today.  Getting again behind their own judgments or preparing what they think they “should” say.

4)Role model, go first, start the talking piece, place plates in the center.

Why

1) Brain connections – engage people in thoughts of loved ones stimulates brain chemicals to promote openness.

2)Indirect ask – – we all want to fit in and belong, we use social masks, our answer change if we are with our friends or our parents friends.  That’s good because that creates accountability and social norms.  We want to get to the heart of people in Circle, and using the approach reaches a more genuine context.

3) Relationships matter – asking about a specific relationship that the person has, reinforces the importance of relationships and brings in dialogue relvant to what really motivates our behaviors.

4)Topic matter is comfortable – everyone can easily share about someone they have a relationship with.  This promotes bonding and a successful first round with the talking piece.

Lesson

It was observed in Circle that the relationship/values questions was framed as “someone you find inspiring”.  Participants picked figures like Gandhi, very few people have a personal relationship with Gandhi, so this question eliminates the personal context of who and what is important in personal relationships.  The “someone” rather than a relationship leaves out the discussion of disclosing who is important to us.  By a de-personalized question, people can social mask it easier and pick a figure, vs an actual relationship.  The cross pollination of discovering others values on relationship values is lost with the question framed this way.  The question could still be utilized in Circle, however it might not be the most effective and developing values that the Circle can then commit to use for the rest of the process.

Finding your keepers heart, encouraging the heart of others.

It has been an emotional and powerful season of work.  A group of practitioners met to begin a deeper look at healing not only the incident of harm, but deeper wounds and trauma when additional deeper harm is present.  That means looking at differences in race, power, gender, any status differences between people participating.  Not everyone comes with an understanding of history and how past traumas do impact our present engagements.  Some spaces of open-hearted work for me included:

  • I opened up my work for examination, when I might not have had awareness to negotiate “it wasn’t racist” rejection of the emotional harm caused by behaviors.  I was challenged to hold the space for others that wanted to offer advice.  (this advice was RJ 101, and things I had of course done, but did not relate in the brief time I had to offer). The goal in the end was to find ways we might promote increased ‘restoration’ when working to repair harm.
  • I wept at the feet of a Native Elder, I apologized for the ways my ancestors treated hers.  I expressed my shame, apology and feelings for not deserving to be practice Circle wisdom.  She embraced me, hugged me, told me to keep going, that these things live in my heart.
  • I met a group of Veteran advocates and Veterans where they are home.  I rubbed my chin when they showed me the square table they use for Circle.  I could see that was important and significant to them.  We began the Circle Training, with that table, and then I asked them for permission to move it.  It was a powerful and significant training for Veteran work and Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle process.  I feel blessed it includes that story and demonstration of meeting Veterans and their advocates where they are.

I relate these 3 to demonstrate how to express having a Keepers Heart.  Being a Circle Keeper is trying to live and model the values and principles of Restorative Justice.  I have another list (twice as long) where I might have not carried the values and principles.  Being a Keeper is letting go of control, it is not facilitating a Circle, it is bringing a presence that promotes understanding, empathy, compassion, deep listening and healing.

I am so blessed to work with a wonderful and dynamic group of volunteers.  I have come to believe that our Restorative Justice Center success is based on the engagement of all these volunteers.  I have been watching and looking at them to discover as much as I can, to be able to relate and share with others hoping to create space for Restorative Justice in their own communities.

When we gather as volunteers, it is different, we are not working with those in Circle that have been referred for service.  We are able to discuss our intentions, our techniques, our success and our challenges.  I noticed a common theme . . . working on themselves to be better people.  I heard how Restorative Justice volunteering provides a challenge to be non-judgmental, to express caring and compassion.  It struck me . . . restorative humility . . . the understanding that I am not better than anyone else and by helping others, I can help myself. (click to tweetThose are my words to the concepts.  That is what I will continue to model and promote in others . . . the Keepers Heart is honest, courageous, humble and generous.