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

Memory tool for explaining Restorative Justice Circles.

Anytime we can think of an image we are familiar with, (an existing neuro pathway) we are more able to remember things we associate to that image.

For teaching storytellers Restorative Justice Storytelling process, I ask people to associate the stages of storytelling to a baseball diamond.

For people learning Circles a Railroad Crossing sign.  I just typed up a handout (Memory Tool for explaining Circle) for tomorrows Keeper Meeting.

RR-25s

I have a few changes, the L on the left changes, but this Memory Tool can be a quick and easy way to learn how to ‘Circle-speak’ . . . Circle-speak is developing the language that opens hearts.

Circle-speak is . . .

. . . inviting over authoritative

. . . suggestive over directive

. . . about opportunities over rules

. . . supportive over assumptive

. . . from the heart, open, honest and genuine

You say things not always heard in everyday conversations . . .

. . . listening with the ears of your heart

. . . speaking your wisest words

To bring people to a deeper space of connection . . . connect with the deepest parts of yourself.  Be congruent about your most positive beliefs in people.  Be open to your own heart being changed by Circle.

Tweet this post!

 

 

Campus Restorative Justice as a community non-profit.

I feel in love with Restorative Justice in the late 90’s.  The first training left me a bit confused, maybe I should say “challenged”.  At that time, I was working from a place of ego than compassion.  I saw the families on my caseload as very different from me.  I was missing the basic humanity and the fact that we are all interconnected (click to tweet).  I put a wedge/distance between us because I hadn’t yet faced many of my own pains.  It is our suffering connects us the quickest (tweet).  Last night in Circle, as soon as someone opened up, “went there” and shared about a harm, the rest of the Circle members became more engaged, more open.  I feel far more effective as a “helper” these days than back in the late 90’s.  THANK YOU IIRP for bringing that first training session to town!  Thank you the State of Minnesota for implementing a Restorative Justice Planner!

It is not the 90’s anymore.  I’ve seen trends come in, tried to understand where they came from what was intended.  Some very good, like the expansion of Restorative Justice to college campus.  Some concerning for example, blueprint layouts for a prison called Restorative Justice (visiting areas designed to be circular).  Some changes are needed, as Restorative Justice learned, shifted, grew, it became more defined.  Teen Court is not Restorative Justice and we need to put each on a clear path and not co-mingle the two.

Campus programs, like community, school or prison programs of Restorative Justice can start from many places.  Sometimes a pressing need appears and Restorative Justice is brought in.  In some instances, the shift in addressing student misconduct is evaluated and a new way emerges, the new way selected is Restorative.  Restorative Justice in all areas (not just campus)  works best when designed for 3 areas.  The first to focus on the community culture over all, Circles to connect – reaffirm relationships, the second for at-risk places or where we need to rebuild relationships, and finally when a wrong-doing has occurred, Circles to repair-relationships.

The story of St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (SCVRJP)- and our local campus University of Wisconsin River Falls, has all of the elements I mentioned above.  SCVRJP has been called upon to come and facilitate for community building.  Specifically with Destination students – teaching the tool of Circle Keeping – to trip leaders.  Service learning has a component of reflection.  Circles make great containers for this type of deep reflection.  They especially help students cross-pollinate the good in each other.

SCVRJP and UWRF have worked side by side to address specific harms on campus.  We’ve taken referrals and worked with students who experienced conflict.  SCVRJP responded when a student died on campus, we held a Circle to support and grieve together.  Students use to pass into the criminal justice system from campus, mostly for underage consumption.  Now, the campus housing policy, sends them directly to SCVRJP.  Not only has this has brought fewer appearances in court, an officer was quoted in saying few incidents of passed out students on campus.

Our local non-profit provides students a service learning site, internships, we speak at campus programming.  After a few semesters off, I am back to teaching a class on campus.  Budget cuts and financial adjustments caused the break.

So now, SCVRJP is seeing more campuses represented at our training sessions!  Housing staff, student responsibility leaders from different campuses and programs are coming to the two-day Circle Training.  Many campuses are developing internal programs each designed to suit the needs of their campus.  We’ve provided training specifically to campus staff and are available to contract for training events.

The housing professionals from the ATCCHA schools who attended the October 28, 2011 professional development session at the University of Wisconsin – River Falls found the presentation by Kris Miner of the St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Center to be professional, informative and enlightening.  Kris did an excellent job of sharing information not only on the tenants of restorative justice, but how it can be applied and utilized by student conduct administrators.  Staff in attendance felt that the presentation met the need they had to learn more about this topic.

Sandi Scott Duex, Director of Residence Life/Student Rights & Responsibilities University of Wisconsin – River Falls

Resources for Circle keepers, helping promote the process.

At St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Progam (www.scvrjp.org) we hold our sessions in Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle process.  We depend on volunteers to help us as community members and as Circle Keepers.  We recently developed a few resources for our organization and will share these here.  Let me know what you think!

Elements & Stages

SCVRJP Circle Keeper Guidebook

The next two-day Circle Keeper training at SCVRJP is on October 3rd and 4th from 9-3 both days.  Those volunteering with SCVRJP willl be not be required to pay the $200 registration fee.  Limited scholorships are available.  SCVRJP also provides consultation and workshops, you can contact us and bring a training to your conference or agency.

I’ll be presenting 4 workshops at the Idaho Juvenile Justice Conference August 27, http://www.ijja.us/conference.php

Restorative Justice Circles, structuring the human element.

Be human.  Be a good relative, establish solid relationships by being relatable.

Restorative Justice Circles process is MORE than just a talking piece.  It is a way of holding a Circle, inviting each and every person to be both student and teacher.  Using values, consensus and 4 stages to guide people through the experience of self-discovery, vulnerability and connection.

The Circle process at SCVRJP, has been tested and executed 1,000’s of times.  I am not overstating this!  This week alone . . . two Circles at drivers education class, a controlled substance intervention (CSI) Circle, an Underage Consumption Panel-Circle and a  Circle to repair harm of vandalism/racial harassment.  That’s 5 Circles for an agency that is open 4 days a week!

Each Circle includes community members, paper plates, with values written.  Each Circle included a mat for the talking pieces, a commitment to show the Center of the Circle, and the center of ourselves is a source of power, change, perspective, and the home to our space of connecting to one another.  The 4 stages are crucial to really making Circle magic happen.  Guiding the process so people enter and exit safely and with new awareness enhances the depth of the experience.

Working with Restorative Justice Circles, with the deep appreciation for executing these in the best manner possible produces results.

 

Creating learning “containers” with Restorative Justice Circles, two techniques.

I don’t teach spontaneous Circle Keeping.  I teach getting grounded, connected and comfortable with the core values and principles in Circles.  After working to have these with me, I have developed a few activities that lend to utilizing the container, the center of the Circle, to enhance the process.  These also provide participants a chance to experience what Circle is like.  Here are two techniques I might add to a Circle, an old favorite and new one.

Technique 1:  Passing the talking piece, holding it until you feel your silence is heard.  In your non-directive, supportive Keeper role, ask participants to pass the talking piece, staying silent, and only passing it when they feel their silence has been “heard”.  Sometimes I frame this as a group listening exercise, promoting “collective-ness”.  At other times, I might not offer much except the instructions, it depends on the desired outcome of the activity.  I will use it to calm or slow down the emotional climate.   It can be used to promote an awareness of silence.  It also teaches a pathway to feeling “heard”.  You can reinforce that a bit more, by asking a follow up question: how did you know you were heard, or how did you know you were ready to pass the talking piece?  This technique can be used to teach the power of listening.  The focus is on the person holding the talking piece (as when we speak) however, people are learning to focus/listen non-verbally, and we know non-verbal communication is important.  This is a good one to start, to go first and model actually holding the piece and tune in to the feeling of being heard.  This also builds trust in the group, this round gives the keeper opportunity to reinforce a key aspect of Circle, to listen.  It is a good one to do a reflection on the experience, having people share, many times they relate the uncomfortable feeling of it.  The keeper can then remind people, we don’t usually stretch or grow in our comfort zones, so feeling uncomfortable is ok.  It’s even a time for curiosity.

This has proved itself time and time again, I’d say 99% of the time it goes really well.  The 1%, I had a very challenging student group, they didn’t like it.  So I used my chimes and gave them a moment to make all the noises they wanted.  Then we tried the exercise again.  Silence wasn’t safe for this group, we made a step however.

Silence is a good tool to use when keeping Restorative Justice Circles.  Silence is a good prep tool for a keeper and if you are going to use a tool, it is good to get very comfortable with it.

Technique 2: stand up and mime your favorite outdoor activity.  This was invented with the 1% listed above.  I use 4 stages (link to 74 other posts), and when going a bit deeper (into the building relationship stage) if people disengage, I back up to safer questions.  I could see the group getting restless, someone passed.  I know if the brain and the bottom are connected, when the bottom falls asleep so does the brain.  I needed an ‘energizer’ and I needed to build connection.  A bit of “safe-vulnerability” was needed.  Safe-vulnerability in Circle, means a chance to reveal something about your self, yet it is collectively connected and connecting.  The stand up and mime question, allowed us to show we aren’t professional mimes, we got to laugh a bit at ourselves and each other.  Laughter builds connection.  Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.

The technique worked with the challenging group of students.  No one passed, I felt the energy and saw the student eyes appreciate the aides and teachers doing the activity.  It was a “safe-vulnerability” because staff and students got to know each other without an overly personal disclosure by the adults.  Building connections that are safe is important to strengthen the Circle.  Vulnerability in a Circle, in an organic and natural way also builds meaningful connections.  Sometimes a deep question or storytelling round brings that out.  Sometimes being vulnerable is just a small risk, and ‘outside the box’ way of being.  Vulnerability is best told by Brene Brown, her site, and TED talk, titled the The Power of Vulnerability.

Do you have “go-to” techniques you use?  If you try one of these let me know how it goes!

A sample Peacemaking Circle process for reflecting and connecting.

Circles have endless applications.  The kinds of Circles I am speaking of (post here) include 4 stages, keeper, consensus, talking peace, center, values.  You can hold circles to build community to resolve conflict.  The outline/script below could be utilized for a range of student ages.  Some suggestions on this included to use culturally relevant and appropriate greetings.  For example a bow, or gesture that does not involve touch.  Here is a resource for keepers:

Introduction of Circle/Keeper

  • Getting students/chaperones/staff settled
  • Set the tone, monitor emotional climate
  • Introduction to Circle process – 4 values on board
  • Listen/Respect/Truth/Turns
    • Listening from the heart, not for agree or disagree/right or wrong
    • Respect,  Quiet Hands & Feet (encouraging mirror behavior)
    • Truth, speaking from the heart, what is true for you – see center perspectives
    • Turns – explain talking piece, both roles important, opportunity to listen, listen together
    • Four values, four stages, different way of communicating, Open & Close any questions?
    • Consensus with Thumbs Up, thumb sideway or thumb down
    • Opening Activity

 

Opening Activity:  Handshake, Seat Change

 

Physically – moves students around the Circle.  Interacts students and adults. Increases   oxygen for better brains. Mentally– engages students in remembering the   directions.  Places value of Cirlce in   the mindset.  All participate, all   values Emotionally– may raise anxiety, preparing from something new,   outside a comfort zone.  Increase   belonging and connection. Spiritually– handshake as a “sign of peace”, sense of   belonging, sense of connection.    Non-verbal activity, energy of participants.

Have the Circle stand, explain you will be using the 4 values.

  • Listening to each person greet someone else
  • one at a time, go to someone sitting away from you,
  • Respect-offer hand, introduce yourself, Greeting, trade places, person sits
  • Truth, offering your name and greeting, in a good way for you.
  • As we go around, taking seats after greeting and be greeted, one person will be the “sweep” – and that person will say Good Morning Circle, I’m _____, and we will say Good Morning _______!
  • After the activity, affirm the students for demonstrating the 4 values

 

  • Set Up the Center – reminding of values, use of talking piece.
  • Collective listening – ring chimes, set silence and stillness
  • What did you find interesting
  • What are you still wondering about

 

  • Place pictures in Center –
    • Reflection on the pictures – the question with the
    • What would you like to ask the the artist?
    • What did you like most in Circle – one of the 4 values and why or what about it
  • What positive action could come from people learning this exhibit

Closing – Pass a handshake around the Circle – “Thank you for listening”, “Thank you for sharing”

 

The healing potential in Circle, life after death and the wisdom of lived experience.

As a Circle-keeper, some Circles are so powerful and moving, life lessons around humanity resonate to the very core.  I’ve often said & blogged, that if you are doing ‘Restorative Justice’ well, it changes you.  When something changes you, you remember it.  The kind of change I am talking about is a deeper understanding of others.  The change that comes with an ‘ah-ha’ we are all having a similar experience.  We all have more courage, more strength, more wisdom than we thought.

The Circles that are hanging in my heart and mind, have been ones where we have put the trauma of death in the center.  We have taken the 4 stages of Circle, and put next to them, the 4 phases of Restorative Justice Story telling.

As part of Restorative Response, a program of SCVRJP, the community can request a Circle.  Restorative Response is a program to address healing after un-natural death.  For example homicide, suicide, traffic fatality, drug-overdose, accidents that might cause a sudden, unexpected loss.

Reseach & training has taught us that un-natural death includes additional elements to process.  This includes 3 “V’s”, the violence, violation and volition.  By speaking and listening to one another in Circle, you can begin to let the process of talking about these 3 “V’s”.

I’ve been amazed at these ‘life after death’ Circles. Hearing each others stories, reduces isolation, increases understanding and promotes peace of heart.  I firmly believe: Circles Heal.

It seems these Circles include 3 “C’s”.  Carry-on, Cope, Continue – life after death.  The first is how we ‘Carry-On’ after a loss.  This is the basic and immediate reactions upon hearing or seeing a traumatic event.  By sharing where we were when we got the news, or the parts of the incident that have left images, the burden is lifted.  There is wisdom in survival.  Talking about these pieces helps everyone in Circle feel more connected and have a bit more understanding.  Some traumatic deaths, homicide and suicide, really leave gaps in understanding.  Getting understanding from others helps.  Especially when, collectively we don’t understand “how could someone . . .” or “why” something happened, getting more understanding helps with areas where there is none.  Circles reinforce the first C- to Carry-On.

The second C is Cope.  When you speak about the impact of an incident, you get to relate your own individual impact and experience.  This allows each person a chance to be heard by everyone.  To be listened to is to be validated.  To listen builds empathy.  The action of ‘coping’ is heard within each story of how you are impacted.  We share what we are left to cope with, releasing the burden that we are doing that alone, because others listening to this, helps us.  We are wired for connection, empathy is a powerful tool in humanity.  Circles bring this forward.

The final C is Continue.  How do we Continue on after trauma, how do we find life after death.  For some these C’s could take years, or they could be spiral experiences that you move through again and again.  In Circle, people exchange their experiences in finding hope and resiliency.  This happens in the reflection part of the story or the taking action phase of the Circle.  Finding hope and resiliency are important stages to remind us the story we tell ourselves is as important as the experience.  You plant seeds of hope when you ask each person to share about their resiliency or their ‘post traumatic growth’.  Wisdom is really apparent at this stage.  The sense of hope is compounded by the fact people just shared some really, heavy stuff (the incident, the impact).  The ability to ‘Continue’ is reinforced by the sense that we are all in this together.  We all experienced this traumatic event, we all have different parts, yet together we can move ahead in COMMUNITY.

Circle process, 5 ways to effective processing of grief & trauma.

Circle process joins people together around a common intention or topic.  SCVRJP has developed a specialization in Circles, using the process to address a number of public health issues.  SCVRJP has developed services based on community need, and in 2010, began Restorative Response Circles.  This program evolved to SCVRJP offering Circles as a response to grief, loss and trauma.  These Circles include all of the stages, format and concepts that other Restorative Justice Circles include.  The difference is that instead of a variety of perspectives in the Circle, the group is common to the loss.  These types of Circles might be called Healing Circles, Support Circles, Talking Circles.  Critical Incident Stress Management/Debriefing is done in the shape of a Circle.

5 reasons why Circles are so helpful:

1) Talking – you don’t want something to be so unspeakable, it remains unspoken.  Unspeakable, means that we keep it inside.  Things kept inside fester, and get bigger.  Talking about them, finding ways to share and speak is the beginning.  Circles help create safe space for this.

2)Doing – helplessness, is a feeling that spirals us down.  Helping others, makes us feel good about doing something.  Listening to others is a healing action.  By listening and sharing, you are doing something, to help yourself and help others.

3)Immediate – Early intervention is important to reduce PTSD, informal support is as important as formal (professional services) support.  Informal support that is appropriate, healing, resourceful and supportive is key.  Well intended supports will emerge in times of crisis.  Informal support that is experienced with trauma, grief, loss and some wisdom is the area is a good source to draw upon.

4)Belonging – The experience of trauma, leaves us putting pieces back together.  Basic human needs include making meaning, and belonging.  Circles help us on both of these.  Talking about the topic, sharing our perspectives helps make meaning of them.  Belonging is enhanced when we feel connected to others.  Circles teach us how other are, provide a context for our experience and increase our sense of belonging.

5)Support – Circles create space were we are allowed to speak and therefore are open to listening.  Circle allows people to talk about the impact, but also the aspects that have helped.  This allows people to see that helpful acts can be simple, that it is okay to feel the support and help.  Circles also allow everyone to share their own wisdom, and with the non-judgemental environment, people can hear clearly and be more open to the wisdom of others.

Our brains are wired and we work in connection with others.  The evidence that “cognitive-skills’ are best practices is a popular topic in the field of corrections.  Restorative Justice works with these very dynamics, using how our brains respond to trust and open to new ideas.  Surviving trauma is something we do have experience with, we can relate to loss.  When Circles are held to process where people are, how they are doing, what they are finding helpful, a collective healing sense is felt.  It is almost relief that we have done this difficult thing.

Circles are a strong container, they can hold a lot of emotion.

Circles are healing.

 

 

 

-if you would like to hold a Circle for your group, please contact Kris at SCVRJP 715-425-1100.  Training is available at SCVRJP and we kindly request that skilled and experienced Circle keepers, lead the process when it involves very difficult and/or traumatic events.

Restorative Response – supporting survivors of sudden, tragic loss.

Restorative Response    for those impacted by sudden & suicide death.

Providing support to survivors and their families.

Restorative Response Resources 

Guide for Grieving Families – The guide is a booklet for new survivors, created for use immediately following a tragic event.  Provided to local law enforcement and first responders .

Survivor Outreach – trained local volunteers are available to meet with families on request offering listening, compassion and understanding.  Volunteers provide a connection to someone who has survived a similar experience.  Volunteers provide resources, reassurance and hope.

Monthly Support Group – Offering a safe space for sharing, support and understanding.  For past, future & potential members of the Restorative Response Circle series.

Talking Circles – Provided quarterly in sessions of 6 weeks of Circles.  Survivor outreach volunteers provide space for uninterrupted listening, storytelling and a pathway to healing.

Presentations/workshops/circles – SCVRJP will facilitate Circles or provide training & information on trauma, survivors, healing responses and providing support.

Healing after loss can be assisted by connecting with others.  Restorative Response services are tools to making coping easier.  To make a referral, request services or to join our volunteer outreach program, contact Kris Miner.

 

Upcoming Events

  • Monthly Support Group – July 19, August 16, September 20
  • Restorative Response Circle Series – 6-8 pm
    • October 4 – November 8          April 18 – May 23 2013
    • Restorative Response Volunteer Trainings:  July 31 6-8 pm, August 16 4-6 pm
    • Walk-for-Awareness – July 28 – remembering loved ones
    • Pre-registration requested.  Contact 714-425-1100 or scvrjp@gmail.com for more information.

 

Restorative Response is a program of the St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (SCVRJP).  SCVRJP has been serving victims of traffic fatalities since 2003, when Victim Impact Panels were established for Pierce & St. Croix Counties.  As a volunteer for Dakota County, Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Corrections, SCVRJP Director Kris Miner facilitates Restorative Justice for homicide and traffic fatalities.  These experiences combined with a community need to support those impacted by suicide led to the Restorative Response program.

In 2010, SCVRJP began hosting Talking Circles for survivors of suicide.  The program evolved to help others from sudden and tragic loss.  The program includes monthly support groups, survivor outreach, training and a guide for grieving families.

SCVRJP is seeking volunteers specifically to the Restorative Response program.  Training will be provided on working with survivors, responding restoratively and with compassion.  Volunteers will be asked to be available for Circles, support group and the individual outreach aspects.  If you have survived the loss of a child or a loved one, due to suicide, homicide or traffic crash, please consider becoming part of the team to help others.  If your loss was more recent, SCVRJP encourages participation in a session or setting up a meeting to see if the services could benefit you or your family.

For additional question, please contact Kris Miner.  Volunteer applications are available on the SCVRJP website www.scvrjp.org.