The work to move life forward when others have passed, the power of healing.

A recent Facebook status:

The journey from survivor to thrivor takes courage.  I followed her into the coffee shop and saw the tattoo with names of the deceased across her back.  Three relatives died in that traffic crash 4 years ago, after 9 months of meetings and prep work, she will soon be meeting the driver of the other vehicle involved.  It is powerful work, what some do to heal.

Restorative Justice is grounded in 3’s – Victim/Offender/Community.  Howard Zehr’s 3 pillars: Harms & Needs, Obligations, Engagement.  (Four Words!).  The SCVRJP logo has 3 swirls, with the 4th the white background, the 4 colors of the Lakota Medicine Wheel.

I believe we have a 4th in those we address and engage in Restorative Justice.  Victim-Offender-Community and Collective.  Four sections of the Circle.  Four stages of Circle process, 4 words in the 3 pillars of Restorative Justice.

“Collective”  is bigger and broader than community.  When I think of engaging “community” in Restorative Justice I am asking my law enforcement officers, school staff, citizens, bystanders and others connected to the specific incident.  When we do preventative work, our audience becomes the community.  For example a Teen Driving Circle in a Drivers education classroom, creates a community listening to an offender or victim.  Collective is those impacted further and beyond the immediate community.  Teens go home and tell parents about the powerful story heard. I remember when my daughter was in high school, she was a football cheerleader so I attended football games. After the Restorative Justice work at the school, several parents came to me with questions because their children talked about the Restorative Justice experience.

The ripple of Restorative Justice work goes far and wide, I believe it has impact on the universal human collective.  By addressing Mental, Physical, Emotional and Spiritual aspects Restorative Justice must reach beyond, and that ‘Spiritual’ aspect would be the collective.  When you do loss of life work, you speak about the survivors views on the after life.  You talk about what the deceased would want the living to be doing.  Deceased are usually viewed as spirits or angels, you accept what that survivor defines – and usually the view from heaven, that higher perspective is a spiritual one.  In a spiritual view of things, values always emerge.  Love, forgiveness, compassion, etc, etc. by creating the energy of these things, Restorative Justice impacts the collective.

The collective impact, when people heal from tragedy can be felt.  The two women that will be doing a Victim-Offender dialogue, are exploring what speaking together might look like.  The offender has been speaking about her experience of distracted driving.  The consequences and the lesson is being shared with others to prevent a similar harm.  If/when these two begin to speak together, they will not only have the story of the crash, they will have the story of their journey of Restorative Justice.

I often say, “when we share accessing our own inner strength and wisdom, we help others do the same”.  To access your inner strength and wisdom.  Restorative Justice is the process and the venue for people to access and put this strength and wisdom to use.  Some people need the connection to the other person most connected to the incident.  That is why some victims request Restorative Justice in loss of life incidents.

Can you imagine the courage it would take to meet with the person driving the car that caused a crash that killed 3 of your relatives?  Most people initially hearing the thought of loved ones killed, think about revenge or retaliation.  Those two “R”‘s are phases people go through and some stay there.  Others move to the “r” of restoration, and that is where healing and moving life forward happens.

I’ve had the unique opportunity to accompany a number of people, seeking Restorative Justice after loss of life.  Each person leaves me changed.  Each case influences the next, because I have a broader, deeper understanding of the pain and suffering from losing a loved one suddenly.  Each person is unique and they are treated as such and with the utmost respect.  It keeps me humble and grounded to recognize and realize this work is not just for the victim, the offender and the community.  This work is for the collective.  Mankind can do better and be better when we seek to heal with each other.

 

Support for responding, reacting or restorative-ing.

St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program utilizes the principles and process of Restorative Justice to address public health issues of impaired driving, underage consumption, controlled substance use, disorderly conduct, and other conflicts/crimes that are referred and appropriate for Restorative Justice.  We’ve developed a strong program utilizing community members, storytelling and Restorative Justice Circles.

RJ – Restorative Justice – is vicitm-centered, in a world of process for offenders.  The discipline, sanction, punishment models are very different, however a source of referrals, and an introduction of a harmful incident to a Restorative process.

Case flow from incident to SCVRJP.  SCVRJP has grown to be a trusted and effective option for many.  For others, the program is not utilized, dismissed or misunderstood.  As the Executive Director, I carry a great deal of passion about the work we do.  I am a true believer in Restorative Justice.  I get to make important decisions on a daily basis about responding or reacting.  I train our volunteers and I seek to live the values of RJ and utilize Respect, Responsibility and Relationship as best I can.

Others might be faced with similiar challenges of feeling undervalued, dismissed or misunderstood.  These may root from the intentional or UNintentional actions of others.  They may root from your own perceptions, expereinces or lenses.  Recent tragic events may trigger your need to do more, say more, right the wrong.  For that, I’d like to share a resource I discovered – LINK.  You’ll find some strategic advice, and a poem that I wanted to share:

You can’t be all things to all people.

You can’t do all things at once.

You can’t do all things equally well.

You can’t do all things better than everyone else.

Your humanity is showing just like everyone else’s.

 

So: You have to find out who you are, and be that.

You have to decide what comes first, and do that.

You have to discover your strengths, and use them.

You have to learn not to compete with others,

Because no one else is in the contest of *being you*.

Then:

You will have learned to accept your own uniqueness.

You will have learned to set priorities and make decisions.

You will have learned to live with your limitations.

You will have learned to give yourself the respect that is due.

And you’ll be a most vital mortal.

 

Dare To Believe:

That you are a wonderful, unique person.

That you are a once-in-all-history event.

That it’s more than a right, it’s your duty, to be who you are.

That life is not a problem to solve, but a gift to cherish.

And you’ll be able to stay one up on what used to get you down.

You can’t be all things to all

One picture . . . a thousand words. One tear . . . . a million emotions.

The loss of a loved one is an incredible burden to bear.  When we people die, are killed or take their own lives, the burden is compounded with trauma.  SCVRJP seeks to help those impacted and those that have caused the harm.

Our Walk For Awareness annual event is to provide support and raise funds.

We live our mission of peace & belonging in our fundraising.

For a video of the 2011 Walk event, encouraging your participation in 2012, click here.

Managing a nonprofit crisis – restoratively and with justice.

St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program is a small independent non-profit, 501c3.  Our SCVRJP Annual Report 2011, SCVRJP served 1,820 individuals in 139 different sessions, about 11 times a month we are in a Circle, Conference, training or presentation, that means about 2 times a week.  For 2012 we are trending ahead of last year, averaging 13 sessions a month, with less staff.

Our session revenue only covers half of our monthly expenses.  Each month the other half comes from grants and donations.  SCVRJP has just a few major grants and one fundraising event a year.  We are facing a financial crisis, our operating funds will be depleted, exhausted, finished in October.  We are hopeful a major grant will be there in October.  Hopeful.  Hope doesn’t pay rent and salaries.

The board and I are working closely, we are reviewing plans, making strategies.  We are approaching partners for funds, maximizing our ask for fundraising, re-evaluating our occupancy expenses.  I’ve always been a strong presence for SCVRJP, I’m the leader and this crisis is requiring me to dig deeply into myself.  When things are easy, living in our values is easy.  When times our tough, when we are backed against the wall, that is when living with and from our values becomes the truth of who we are.

I am choosing to live my values of Restorative Justice, through this financial storm.  No storm lasts forever.  I am going to trust what will be on the other side of October.  I am in the beginning of this, my plan is to approach this seeking accountability and healing (key elements of Restorative Justice).  I am admitting and have, that we operated a few years back, for a few years with a budget of -$20,000.  That is certainly not sustainable.  I am not going to blame, my energy is to precious right now, to look back.  I need to engage myself and those around me with looking to the future.

Being a Restorative Justice practitioner has taught me to let go of outcomes.  I know that “trusting the process”, and operating within Restorative Justice approach brings good things.  That awareness of flexibility, is with me now during this financial crisis.  I also know balance from being a Restorative Justice practitioner.  The balance is to keep my zen approach, but also write every grant possible.  To stay calm and to listen, will help me with creating creative options.

SCVRJP has become part of the fabric of the community.  I trust our community will not let us disappear.  Restorative Justice is about the community, so if our community does not help us sustain, then that is the desire of the community.  I can’t imagine doing anything different with my life at this point.  I will be practicing Restorative Justice in some form or another.

I need to ask, can you support SCVRJP?  All donations are needed, share what you are able.  Your donation will be used to help promote Restorative Justice.  We are accepting pledges for October, scvrjp@gmail.com and our website donation page.

Thank you!

UW Extension and Restorative Justice have SO much in common!

I recently attended a summit on the social-emotional well-being of children and families in Pierce & St. Croix Counties.  These are the same counties that SCVRJP has been serving since 2001.

I certainly appreciated hearing the term, the focus and intention of the summit.  I updated my Facebook that day:

Spent the day “social-emotional  well-being” of children.  If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 1,000 times:  restorative justice addresses the social & emotional aspects of crime & conflict.  We use values!

The summit shared the definition of Social-Emotional Well-Being (from Zero to Three, National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families) refers to the developing capacity of a child to:

  • form close and secure adult and peer relationships
  • experience, regulate, and express emotions in social and culturally appropriate ways
  • explore their environment and learn

From the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth and Families:

“To focus on social and emotional well-being is to attend th children’s behavioral, emotional and social functioning – those skills, capacities, and characteristics that enable young people to understand and navigate their world in healthy, positive ways.”

In Restorative Justice Circles, the process beings with gentle, intention explanation and invitation to the Circle.  The physical ways the Circle will work are explained.  This provided the structure and safety within the process.  It makes is so important for keepers to model Circle elements.  The values of relationship are used to set up the social and emotional safety and structure of the Circle.  Some students ‘test’ and I see that as their exploration of the environment (3rd bullet above), and you can offer a teaching them the power of how it works when we listen and take turns speaking.

Circles obviously provide for the first bullet, close and secure.  I believe a Restorative Justice Talking Circle (facilitated will all elements) is the safest group process available to mankind.  Safety and listening allow deep connection.  I’ve seen teens shed the boundaries from social groups and connect in Circle.

For bullet 2 above, Circle allows a free flow of expression when you have the talking piece.  The non-judgemental environment allows students to speak through the experience.  This helps them navigate, regulate and express themselves appropriately.  I am reminded of a student expressing her fears for her Father, he was to go to jail, and she was worried about his health and medication needs.  How more appropriate to express it to the Circle, by talking about it, than by stuffing it and acting out.

I remember another student explaining that when he shared in Circle he learned things about himself he didn’t even know.  Uncovering the layers of who we are finding connection to others is where we experience our humanity.

We owe it to our youth to give them modeling and group process of being socially and emotionally supported.  I agree with supporting the well-being of our children on these aspects.  I hope we do this by increasing the use of Restorative Justice Circles.

Facilitating Restorative Justice loss of life, embraces the essence of the loved one.

Please note, this blog topic, facilitating Restorative Justice in a situation of a fatality, is not intended to promote practitioners stepping beyond their own skill set and training.  Mark Umbriet’s week-long course, a masters in counseling and additional trainings in grief, trauma and restorative justice contributed.  Serious crime and violence cases should be done in pairs, with support and in-depth training.

“I wish he would have been my Dad”

This statement was so powerful because it was spoken by the young man who was driving the car that caused the death of the “Dad”  he mentions.

“She would have done this for any one of us”

The speaker referring to “she” is talking about a relative killed in a traffic crash.  What she would have done, meet with the driver of the car and offer her forgiveness.

There is grief after loss.  When that loss is sudden, preventable and outside of the natural life cycle, that loss has trauma.  People respond individually to loss and trauma.  Crime victims in fatalities also have “crime trauma” – having to internalize that another human being intentionally or not, caused the death.  There are those who have to deal with various levels of intention by the offending party.

Some decide that Restorative Justice should be part of their journey. It is both humbling and an honor to serve on these cases and in these situations.  I say serve because a helper or fixer is a different relationships.  (article by Remen)

The relationship of a Restorative Justice practitioner is delicate in a loss of life case.  You become familiar with the essence of the loved one lost.  I believe our essence is what lingers in others.  If we are loved by another, that means we live forever in their hearts.  (I saw that on Facebook, so it MUST be true).  The circumstances around someone’s death should not be the final definition of who that person was and how they should be remembered.

Two very important things are necessary for healing.  Those are hope and courage.  Courage to face another day and hope it will and can get better.  Those same two values, hope and courage are so alive in a Restorative Justice conference around a fatality and loss of life.  What is amazing to bear witness to is the transformation for each party after the session.

I literally see people shed pounds of emotional weight.  The careful, careful preparation, and the space to let others do their work is a balancing act.  It is not mine to do.  My place is to guide the process, set up safety, find road blocks, share my map, discover the most pressing needs so those can be addressed respectfully.

If you are called to do the work of a serious crime and conflict case, start with good conferencing experience.  I also recommend Circle Training as a way to understand the essence of Restorative Justice.  This is not easy work, and it would require that you feel that call and connect to values for a healing experience.  See this blog post: The will to live is the will to heal for more on that.

I’ve neglected the blog, back and sharing about work with victims.

Blogging in the manner I do takes strength.  I tell the truth, my truth and tie it to teaching about Restorative Justice.  Well, I make every attempt to do that.  I show my experiences and what I have learned.  I try to get an ah-ha moment in the post.  That’s not easy when I have a 500 word style to maintain.

The strength needed to consistently blog, is in the form of discipline.  I am not very disciplined.  I don’t know how I ever quit smoking.  I can’t quit doughnuts or carbs.  Beyond the discipline of taking time to write, it takes strength of vulnerability.  To put my lessons and learnings out there here means showing where I had to grow.  Growing gets us places, it really does.  It just isn’t always easy to put a name to it.

When I have gaps in blogging, it is like gaps in talking.  It means I have retreated back a little bit.  This gap was no different.  I believe that the conversation is the relationship.  Walk away from someone with the last conversation conflicted, the relationship feels conflicted.  Walk away from the last conversation connected, relationship feels connected.

I so admire my teacher friend who greets each student hello and goodbye – it shows skills in connection.  Connections and conversations are relationships and relationships are teachers.

My relationship to this blog is a teacher.  All I have to do is start to think about the blog itself.  I know the pulse, weak or strong.  It has been weak for a while.  I don’t share about it as much when I am not active on here.  I know the connection creates a connection to my work.  Connecting to our work makes it more meaningful.  The more meaningful our work, the happier our lives.  The more we find meaning, the more we feel fulfilled.  Did you know we are most unpredictable when we are unfulfilled.  Anyone who works with juveniles should work on the kids fulfilment levels.

I recently got some fulfillment, I was invited to do a community presentation around Crime Victims Rights Week. I am sharing the powerpoint here.  Reminding those that work with victims, the importance of listening.  I hope what I shared helped others, and I hope it might help you.  Cause for me, that’s why I blog, to help others.

Restorative Dialogue april 2012

 

Restorative Justice Circles, meeting the social brain needs, developing humanity.

For an example outside of this blog and SCVRJP, check out this presentation:  on DMC, from OJJDP, https://www.nttac.org/index.cfm?event=webinarJuvenileJustice   The slides and information on Circles start on PPT slide 44 (ppt here).

What is described in this program, is very much like the programming used at SCVRJP.  I have several blogs trying to describe it, today I want to recognized something I see as very much like the Circles I associate with being Restorative Justice Circle.  Each element contains certain responsibilities and when these responsibilities are honored and the work done, is by Circle, then great outcomes can happen.

Key Elements of a Circle

  • Circle keeper

  • Ground rules

  • Values

  • Decision by consensus

  • Talking piece

  • Centerpiece

  • Opening/closing

The Restorative Justice outcomes can happen in other styles and “expressions” of Restorative Justice.  From a simple conversation, to a formal Circle.  I really feel like SCVRJP has developed an effective, effective means for not only reaching outcomes, but touching humanity in our Circle participants that really changes for the long-term.  My area is not other types of Restorative Justice process, my area is a Restorative Justice Circle, as learned from many teachers

A power point from the National Association of Social Workers was recently forwarded to me.  A great presentation I didn’t hear directly, by Johnathan Jordan, mindfully change.  Some pieces immediately resonated and I can see how Restorative Justice Circle process promotes and leverages brain based change!

Our brains need social safety – this is established around students learning in schools and offenders making change.  So what do our social brains need most?  A SCARF, scarf stands for (From Slide 14, of the NASW power point):

Status – how we compare to others, competition, avoidance of being “wrong” or responsibility for being at fault
Certainty – clarity, opposite of confusion, risk free
Autonomy – ability to make decisions, sense of control
Relatedness – fitting in safely, belonging to a group
Fairness – how we are treated compared to others

How a Restorative Justice Circle promotes each of these:

Status – Power is equalized in Circle, the set up, the format, the allowing each person equal access to the talking piece and the manner that a true Keeper of Circle brings, promotes equal status.  The non-judgement you promote in Circle, also eliminates a fear of judgement.  I convey in Circle, each person is a student and each person is a teacher.  It feels good to be needed, and it feels validating to know your “lived experience” can be used as wisdom for others.
Certainty – Circles have a clear structure and process.  After explaining how the talking piece will work, I explain the great freedom this will allow us.  This structure and certainty of the process is reinforced when we use a consensus process at the very beginning and agree to use the values in the center, the paper plates as our guidelines.  (This practice is slightly different from the model Gwen/Alice/Kay teach).  You promote certainty by role modeling the process.  Don’t blurt, because as keeper of community rep, you just role modeled that you don’t have to follow the guidelines, and that means you have stepped out of your equality status.
Autonomy – There is complete autonomy for each and every person in Circle.  You decide how you will be in Circle, you have the option to pass.  You promote inclusion and invitation as the keeper.  This allows freedom for people.  The first few stages, where you are doing the “silly before the serious” allows people to express themselves.  They realize they are free to be themselves, and then magically they open up to a place of being someone who wants to learn and even change.
Relatedness – It is amazing and the power of Circle immediately shows us we are all connected, more alike than different.  Using the process lights up the brains and hearts of all participants.  The final stage of Circle, where you reflect on the experience ties this all together.
Fairness – Circles are so fair, because of the equality.  Circle promote the fairness because of the equal opportunity for the talking piece.  You can speak your voice and mind, and maybe you don’t feel it was “fair” that you got arrested, but once that is voiced, we can move on in Circle to the choices made, and what could be made in the future.
I really encourage you to learn Circle by being in Circle, to embrace all the key elements and to leverage your influence on humanity by providing your community with real Restorative Justice Circles.

Full pdf article on SCARF

The Neuroscience of Better Negotiations PPT from NASW (©2012 National Association of Social Workers. All Rights Reserved)

Caution and blessing, Restorative Justice Circles can quickly create a culture.

When Kay Pranis and Jennifer Ball came to visit SCVRJP, they met with a few of our volunteers and stayed for a Controlled Substance Intervention Circle.  I realized that SCVRJP has developed a culture of Circles.  As we spoke about our work, it was consistent from Underage Consumption Panels to Circles with alternative school students, SCVRJP has a consistent method and manner for our Circle work.

I stick closely to Restorative Justice values, I do all I can to make sure our volunteers, community representatives are aware of the Mission, Vision and Values of this work.  SCVRJP Circles have consistent Restorative Justice Circle elements, consistently.  I have 253 posts on this topic of Circle process.  Each year we keep the paper plates stacked in an area and we watch them grow.  I still have 2011 plates in my office and when you have a meeting with me, you sit right in front of that stack of values.

I recently helped in a North St. Paul elementary school, spent the day going class to class introducing Circle.  The school is implementing Olweus.  I don’t align with some of the methods, however I do support a great deal of it (anything that excludes, in my opinion is perpetuating violence).  This day in the Elementary school, was not my first, I did some training there a few years ago.  Circles are used consistently, classroom morning meeting, school wide Circles to address situations that could erupt in the school.  They even do Circles to support students during difficult times.  I heard a great story about preparing students for a school break, and how they loved hearing a perspective from the school police-liasion officer.

Students in 5th grade, had been in Circles since 3rd grade.  They had been in Circles for the beginning and end of the day, those students KNOW Circle.  They let me know, my Circle was not long enough!  They knew the basics for Circle in their community:  tell the truth, eyes on speaker, quiet hands and feet and listen.  These 4 were simply the theme of the Circles I helped conduct in the school that day.  I realized the school has developed its own culture for their Circles, an effective means for using the process, consistent patterns for communicating for community building and for problem solving.

SCVRJP also holds Victim Empathy Seminars.  We’ve had a few that ended without participants recognizing the harm to the greater community.  I heard feedback to the point I called someone into the office to talk about it.  I hadn’t been keeping those Circles and I had an opportunity to get back to it recently.  When we did the 3rd stage of the Circle, the Community Representatives all passed.  This was something different, I always prepare people and enourage them to role model, and not pass.   The next round the Community Representatives all passed the piece across and over the participants.  I was nearly having a panic attack!  This style didn’t demonstrate core Circle values.  I was feeling uncomfortable, I realized something had developed in our culture that was inconsistent with our vision.

What happened in that moment was a division between us and them.  NOT a quality of Circle.  It became clear to me, that a pattern of doing the VES emerged, a new aspect to the culture.  When I got the talking piece, I immediately changed it out and addressed this.  I pointed out I was confused by the community representative passing and then the round where the talking piece did not go person to person.  I explained the next round going to each person directly.  I reaffirmed that the Circle is about equality.  Then I specifically framed a question everyone in Circle could answer.

What is important in being a good citizen?  If you had a do-over about your citizenship what would it be?

This round had each and every person answering.  This round also had each and every person being teacher and student.  I saw people finish the Circle with accountability and realizations that they caused harm and can move on in a better way.  I even got a new volunteer out of the mix, demonstrating our inclusiveness was effective in growing our community.  Even with a strong committment to a culture, it is important to always make sure the culture is consistent with key values.