Restorative Justice begins with Judge None.

At St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (SCVRJP), we teach our volunteers, our participants, and our speakers/storytellers as much as we can about core Restorative Justice philosophy and approaches.

We use the Little Books of Restorative Justice and Circle (Zehr & Pranis) found at Goodbooks.  We have powerpoints we ask to be reviewed and a few core handouts.  If your Restorative Justice program is interested, I can share.

One briefly stated concept is Judge None.  This means withhold assumptions, judgements, decisions what you would or would not do.  Judgement leads to blame, and blame is removes you and places focus on the other.  Now what if you are the victim?  We listen deeply and intently to victims.  We honor the feelings, emotion and experiences and we still ask ‘judge none’.  We don’t know the motivation, intention of another.  We can hold our own thoughts, emotion and experience from their actions.  Judge none, really separates the doer from the deed.

It is not easy when you hear of someone’s experience.  Can you imagine dealing with the death of your child and in the name of religion, a people mail the newspaper articles, obituary and conversion material to extended family out-of-state.  Ouch.  Well intended from their point of view, painful to the family.

To blame, minimize, avoid full responsibility is almost the natural reaction to making a mistake.  If you easily go to “oh, I did it, I feel bad, I shouldn’t have” your accountability journey looks like a vacation rather than a journey to understanding, a little suffering creates some deep lessons.  Thank goodness for juvenile justice workers and social workers that walk beside youth helping them along.

Restorative Justice asks community members to step forward and have these discussions.  That can happen along a continuum of pre-diversion – to post confinement (another link).

Judge None, allows us to look at our 3 (Zehr) Relationship, responsibility and respect.  Asking people to have their relationship to the incident, and not judge the other persons relationship to the incident is a matter of judge none.

I just worked with someone who was taking full responsibility for their part.  I asked about that tag line at the end.  I got the full story of all the things someone else had done to contribute to the incident this person was charged, convicted and sentenced for.  In more words and time than permit here, we unpacked those things.  We looked at relationships to the incident.  We went to the first part of Restorative Justice ‘acknowledging you caused harm”.  Our responsibility is fully owned, when we focus on our selves.  In Circle we ask “speak to the Center”.  That models that our responsibilities are our decisions, our actions, our thoughts.

When we are busy doing our best to be our best, we haven’t got time energy or resources for more .  Judge none is a reminder to our own restorative justice living (click to tweet)

Restorative Justice work as art and being. Three experiences one blog post.

An artist in the show, invited me to the reception.  Twice, so I knew it was important, and relationships are built by going out of our way.  Since I like art, it wasn’t THAT out of the way, so I attended.  Since I know the artist in a totally different context, I didn’t really connect “drawing from life” or the postcard, to what I was going to see.

Voila_Capture1018The gallery was set up with the center space showing the chair the model might sit in.  It became clear from the drawings, the models were nude.  Wow.  I took in the art, appreciated reading the artist statements.  I had just been to a deep meeting and discussion with someone preparing to meet with a surviving family member, in a multiple death traffic fatality incident.  The nakedness of the art, the beauty, reminded me of how we have to get emotionally bare when it comes to Restorative Justice dialogue.  As a facilitator when emotions are high, and grief over the death of a loved is present, you also become bare.  Your own heart is present and you (facilitator) are in it alongside those requesting and agreeing to dialogue.

Later I posted on Facebook, the echoes of this earlier conversation.  It really stayed with me, mostly the bravery of the young person, dealing with very adult issues.  The pre-session preparation was more intense, as we are getting closer to the actual face to face meeting.  The compliment shared was really great to hear as well.  The voiced confidence in SCVRJP and me, confirmed and supported the energy I was feeling about readiness for the dialogue to happen.

photo    This morning a comment on the Facebook post, struck a strong note with me.  Cameron Communicationz, “everything worth doing is an art”.  YES!  I always taught my daughter to know that art was never finished, if you “messed up” just keep coloring or drawing to work that in.  She might not remember that.  I was trying to counter my perfectionism rubbing off on her, but that’s another blog post.  In facilitating a severe crime case, such tender care is needed in exploring the needs of the victims.  Preparing parties to sit face to face after damage and harm, especially when a loved one has died, requires zero attention to your own perfectionism.  All ego of the facilitator needs to be removed, and working towards emotional safety and preparation is the art.

Restorative Justice as art.  That means co-creating with those around you.  That fits well, I teach that a Circle keepers job is to engage everyone as keepers in the Circle.  As I viewed the art in the gallery, there was no way the drawings could have emerged without the live figure (nude model).  Imagine the vulnerability to disrobe and be drawn . . . to me that feels incredibly powerful, a risk taken and completed.  As I looked at the art gallery drawings, I could see myself in some of the drawings.  We connect to art, and I believe we connect to each other in Restorative Justice.  Reflections of ourselves in others.

The link between art and Restorative Justice got me thinking about the similarities.  Using different methods, improving over time, finding yourself in the art you create.  Learning what others interpret or see in your creations.

I got emotionally overwhelmed at the art gallery.  I felt like crying.  I was moved by the courage I felt in the drawings and the honesty expressed.  I enjoyed visiting with the person that invited me.  It was a real lesson, on people being more that you might know.  The restorative justice meeting, the gallery reception, the Facebook comment. Three randomly disconnected things, all now connected in this blog post.  And isn’t that what life and Restorative Justice is all about . . . connections.

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.

 

NY Bus Bully incident, Karen Klien and Restorative Justice.

The bus monitor bullied by middle school boys.  It’s been in the media and ironically, I first heard of the incident in Circle Training.   Karen Klien recently offered that she would like to talk to them to ask they why.  (article)

The natural course of this, has some restorative elements.  The victim didn’t think the apology letters were sincere.  It was the 4th student who did an apology face to face that helped Karen.

Restorative Justice is victim-centered, victim initiated, different from systems, who discipline, punish, sanction.  Repairing the harm becomes the responsibility of systems and repairing the harm is the focus of Restorative Justice efforts.  Systems that engage Restorative Justice can do double the repair work.  Karen said she is “fine” with the school’s response.  My bet is that Restorative Justice would produce results that are more than her feeling fine.

There are limitless options in Restorative Justice, and who knows what a well run Circle or Restorative Justice Conference could have produced.  I do want to compliment those that responded under the scrutiny of international media.  Well done to include community service with senior citizens.

Restorative Justice and system responses usually come to the same type of outcomes.  The difference is that the families of both victim and offender are involved in co-creating the outcomes.  Victims are more satisfied, offenders are more compliant. (Evidence article) In my experiences the families of those that caused harm, are much more on board and understanding of any consequences or sanctions.

In my community some of our local schools will assign Restorative Justice as a condition of returning after expulsion.  I wish we could set it up so we could do Restorative Justice quickly, when in some instances we could.  When we have gotten a referral, when we’ve done “morning after” restorative justice it has worked really well.  I don’t understand why it doesn’t happen more often.

At the same time, I should be cautious of what I wish for.  Our nonprofit only has so much capacity.  In part that is why SCVRJP, teaches others to do Restorative Justice.  Our partnership with our local university is an excellent example.  They recently created a student leadership position “Circlekeeper”.  Clearly they see the value.

When I teach schools about Restorative Justice – I come from a whole school approach.  That Circles, a Restorative Justice process, can be done to change culture, increase safety, reduce harm.  Classroom circles, school wide Circles, Circles to respond to wrong-doing – all based on a very simple model.  It is so effective and the results are long-lasting.  When I haven’t seen a word about Restorative Justice in this incident, I realize how far we have to go in bringing Restorative Justice, aka Restorative Measures, aka Restorative Practices to schools.

I get optimistic about humanity when I see that Restorative elements were alive and happened organically in the incident on the NY bus.  Good things happened, and it resembled restorative work, and it happened because Restorative Justice makes sense, it is grounded in the potential for good to come from bad.  You see the power of the human spirit is designed to heal.  Those boys acted from a place of their edges, not their core.  When they said sorry, and they accepted the sanctions from the school, they are now acting from their core.  What more could we ask for?

I hope the path ahead is smooth for everyone involved.  I hope that we can continue to learn about bully behavior and respond to it in a way that people learn and aren’t punished into becoming worse.

Training for Restorative Justice Facilitation – Fall 2012 St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program

One of the revenue generating activities for SCVRJP is consultation income.  This includes payments made to trainings held on site at SCVRJP and for contracted trainings, where I travel off site and train for another agency.  This blog post will feature some trainings that are available on-site, and would be available as contract opportunities.  The session offerings have evolved over the last few years as I have trained and learned what is helpful to others for implementation.  Each session can be focused to school or community settings.

I recently did two victim-offender-dialogue cases in two days.  Both involved a death, one happened 25 years ago and the other just under 2 years.  One case took months of preparation, the other just a week!  With every case, you meet the individual needs, each case is unique.  There was much to learn and gain, as these two sessions came together to be held back to back.  Combined with the expereinces of preparing people for conferences and circles, I decided to offer the Art & Science training opportunities.  These will cover in-depth preparation meetings, and the key elements for facilitating a session.

Restorative Justice the Art & Science

August 2 & 3 – River Falls, WI or October 3 & 4* – West St. Paul, MN

  • Day 1: Preparing Victims & Offenders for Restorative Process
    • Restorative Justice/Restorative Practices –theory into practice.
  • Day 2: Restorative Conferences & Restorative Circles
    • Skills and facilitation of Restorative Process.

*co-sponsored by Dakota County Community Corrections & Hastings Restorative Justice Council – no charge, MRSC members can register at a reduced rate.

Circle Keeper Training    October 5 & 6  River Falls, WI

Participants will learn:

  • Restorative Justice Philosophy and Practices
  • Core Circle Elements
  • Circle Stages
  • Role of a Circle Keeper
  • Circle Applications for PBIS stages
  • Dealing with Un-circle-like behavior

Restorative Justice Victim Impact Panels

October 12  River Falls, WI

Participants will learn:

  • Operating a successful VIP program
  • Working with storytellers & speakers – survivors & offenders

SCVRJP has been providing VIP’s since 2003, and reaches over 500 individuals a year.  This service meets the Driver Safety Plan requirements and supports survivors of impaired driving crashes.

Click here for: Training Flyer, you can pre-register by contacting me at 715-425-1100 or scvrjp@gmail.com.

Office of Justice Programs – Crime & Victimization presentation – Restorative Justice.

Restorative Justice for victims, can always be shared.  I was fortunate to be able to share at the Minnesota Office of Justice Programs Crime & Victimization Conference.  My overall outline was to share what Restorative Justice is, how best to meet needs of victims with Conferences or Circles.

The powerpoint I used is here:  Crime & Victimization Conference May 2012 updated

I used a brief handout with 80 people attending, OJP Crime Victims handout

I ran a slideshow so people could see feedback about our programs.  Quotes from our community.

SCVRJP contracts with agencies to bring trainings on Restorative Justice.  Please see our website for more information.  www.scvrjp.org.

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.

Restorative Justice stakeholders discuss program experience.

 Valentine’s Day 2012 was a good one!  Judges, court clerks, law enforcement, social workers, fellow nonprofit providers, clergy, attorney’s and victim advocates attended a stakeholder meeting hosted by SCVRJP.  (New website launched today – check it out!)

The panel speakers came from a variety of backgrounds and experiences with Restorative Justice.

Randy shared the experience of losing his daughter, after a drunk driver, only a month older, caused a crash that took her life.  We reached out to Randy, and only after his own reckless driving, and deferred prosecution, did he engage with SCVRJP.  He now continues to volunteer, continues to share the gut wrenching and painful story of life without Alyssa.

Mark, a probation agent, explained his interaction with Restorative Justice.  He provided a case example, where the former “all american-kid” with no record caused a traffic fatality.  The young man, the former all-american, still volunteers telling his story.  The agent verified the work and outcomes of Restorative Justice.

Local prosecutor shared how he uses the program, offers “carrots”, which I explained to others can look like a stick!

A community volunteer shared her experiences with SCVRJP and Restorative Justice.  She explained the connections between prevention, intervention and treatment of health issues.  She had examples at every level, Circles that provided successful outcomes with each.

A middle school counselor shared using Circles in school, to develop emotional connections for students.  A college student shared his experience, relating how a blackout resulted in frightening a community member.  He shared how meeting with the victim helped the victim, helped him.  He shared the meeting started a little tense, yet was helpful to both parties.  He also shared getting two hugs on arrival, one from the RJ facilitator and the other from the victim.

SCVRJP collected surveys on what works, what’s needed and other helpful comments.  The power in the meeting was some brainstorming about potential sessions.  We showed people what we do, when Randy shared part of his story.  Each speaker provided a different perspective, building on the evidence that Restorative Justice works.

I feel so blessed to get to work in a community program providing Restorative Justice.  SCVRJP has specialized in Restorative Justice Circles.  We are starting year 11 of serving our community and today, was a perfect celebration of a community coming together and finding healing, connection and prevention!

 

 

Restorative Justice, 3 C’s for increasing belonging.

Belonging.  Right there in the middle of Maslow’s hierarchy of Needs, Restorative Justice helps people recognize where it is, rebuild it where it was torn or repair it where it was damaged.  Restorative Justice, experienced from the perspective of victim, offender, community member holds potential to increase belonging.  From bystander, family member, professional Restorative Justice gives us reasons to belong, because we all belong to humanity.

The smallest and the largest harms can be addressed in Restorative Justice, you simply expand the Circle as needed.  More training, mentoring, preparation time for the more serious the offense.  I feel so blessed to work in a range of environments from prevention (after school program circle) to a loss of life (mostly traffic fatalities).  This range of work causes me to clearly identify the core values, principles and tactics of facilitating, implementing and providing Restorative Justice.  I’m going to link you the principles for some elements of those tactics.  Beyond knowing the tactics (principles, philosophies), Restorative Justice requires you to know the art.  The artful skill of working with people hearts.

The art can be summarized with 3 C’s.  Compassion, Connection, Caring.  Bring your most balanced self to a restorative process.  It could be a pre-conference meeting, and Circle preparation meeting, the Restorative Justice conference or Circle itself.  The compassion you bring needs to be from a place of a balanced heart.  In order to reach another’s heart, be familiar with your own.

Connect to others.  Consider connection as a feeling.  I recently read that a sign of a highly empathetic person, is a familiar face.  People assume they met you before because the feeling of connection.  Compassion and empathy are different.  I believe compassion comes first, compassionate people care, compassionate people are strong enough to withhold judgements and empathize with others, versus judgements about another’s behavior, that prevents you from feeling what they might be feeling.

The notion of caring, is another heart skill.  These touchy feely, esoteric concepts are sometimes best described by others.  So clearly put, I have to use what someone said about a police officer.  I was asking someone I trusted for an opinion about working with another.  The feedback I got:  “His ‘give a shit’, ain’t broke”.  I understood what this meant.  People know if you care.  If you stay mindful of others, you genuinely have compassion, connection and caring, I believe your restorative work will be of benefit and provide even more belonging.

 

The power of asking questions, which end of the same stick?

The art of asking questions is a skill a Circle-keeper, Restorative Justice Practioner needs to be building.

Imagine this . . . how were you harmed?  People can express their hurts.  Consider an event where many people contributed to the harm, there wasn’t a specific person.  The question might be . . . how were you impacted?  When you talk about impact, community members, supportors and even the offender can share the impacts of the harmful act.

When you pick your questions, you need to be monitoring the emotional climate of the Circle participants.  The higher the safety, the more vulnerable you can make the question.  You start at the stages of getting acquainted and building relationship – you get the values, the commitment to honor the values, some comfort and safety, then you can talk about the difficult things.

I also use a reflective or final stage, check out question.  I ask what people thought it was going to be like, and what it actually was like.  My question tips the scale that something about what they expected and experienced was different.  I could ask a general reflective question, just have people “check out”, however, I know that novel, makes things memorable.  I want young people to remember the story heard, from our volunteer speaker and from others in the Circle.

This TED Talk, the power of if a question asks up to opt-in or opt-out of organ donation.  It’s an interesting perspective, the specifics about the question, starts about 5 minutes in:

http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_ariely_asks_are_we_in_control_of_our_own_decisions.html

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