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!

Eye for an eye.5?

I’ve been embracing my singleness, I am attending things solo and being aware of the benefits.  Going solo forces you to strike up conversations with those around you.  Attending with someone, and your conversation stays within your group.  I’ve been hearing and seeing this quote:

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

At a domestic violence awareness/prevetnion event, I chatted with another person attending.  When I told her what I did, (work with victims and offenders to bring them together to repair harm) she looked so shocked, she gave me a scoff, and asked, “THAT must be hard! Do you keep a wall between them?”.  I was caught a little off guard at such a strong response.  I offered that we prepare people ahead of time.  She told me that would not work for her.  She shared she was more of an “eye for . . . an eye and a half” type.  I laughed at “eye for an eye and a half”.  Then I told her I write a blog, and asked for her permission to use that.  I thought it interesting where we met, and this perspective, I tried to figure out that context.

The event included a walk, I had two choices.  Listen to the conversations around me, or spend some time just thinking.  I did a bit of both.  I thought about how open and honest it was say, I’d take another half of an eye.  I thought about another recent conversation, where I was saying I would take a case despite the offender saying he didn’t do it.  I know the power of Circle, I know the acknowledgements I get, when I remind people this is not a place where whatever you say will be held against you.  I wanted a chance to sit down 1:1 with the offender.  The person I was speaking with was talking to me, it appeared, only to be able to say “she said no”.  I was not saying no.  I thought about these two conversations.

I wondered, about the other end of the stick?  If one end is “eye for an eye and a half” am I so far down the other end?  Am I, “thank you for taking my eye, I learned I didn’t need it”.  I think that is as absurd as thinking you get another half of an eye!

Context changes so much.  My daughter was recently the victim of a crime.  Her purse was picked up and the person ran away.  My kid went after her, she stopped a car in the parking lot, asked the 3 individuals “did you steal my purse?”  She asked to use a phone, she was going to call her number and see if rang in the car.  The three in the car all made excuses and no call was made.  They went on to use my daughters debit card, she lost her phone, her favorite wallet and purse.  In our very first conversation about this my kid firmly said, “Mom, I WANT to do a Restorative Justice Circle!”.  Later when she found out they lied to her face, and used her debit card, I asked again about Restorative Justice.  She still said yes.  She wants to offer help, so the offender doesn’t have to steal anymore, she thought in the form of a college application or job resume.

Now, I have to sit back and hope the system does what it does, that they follow-up and somewhere in the process of justice, my kid gets Restorative Justice.  I’m concerned about how the formal justice system is going to respond.  My daughter is ready to tell her story as a surrogate victim, I offered her what I could.  It hurts me to see her hurt by this.  I’ve given her some TLC to help.  It’s already brought us closer, but I’m not ready to thank anybody for this lesson.

I don’t know, eye for an eye, eye for an eye and a half, or thank you for removing my eye.  Life happens and each belief we have gets tested in different contexts.

Life happens at the end of your comfort zone.

Restorative Justice Circles, congruent with evidence-based trauma support treatments.

The training title:

Understanding and Treating Traumatized Youth: An Integrated, Evidence-Based Approach

 The training was provided by Cross Country Education (www.CrossCountryEducation.com).

We learned that trauma treatment has 3 phases (originated by Judith Herman).  The first phase is Safety & Stabilization.  One technique was to use the senses to calm and ground, touch, for example was giving the young person something to hold, squishy, cold, prickly.

I immediately thought of the safety established in Circle, and how some students gravitate to the squishy, playful talking pieces.  Safety is when the enviroment is free from threats.  Circles ground us with an opening, and predictability.  We know how this works, it is structured with a talking piece, and the guidelines/values for how we will relate.  Everyone makes a committment to those values.  We know people will be trying to do their best.

I realized that the squishy ball, the playful talking pieces work as well as any.  Sometimes we have fun, stretching and shaking the green fringe ball other times, you forget the person is even holding a toy.  You forget because you are so drawn into the sharing.  Youth consistently out share, what adults would have expected.  If that adult is unfamiliar with Circle.  Even in all the Circles I have been part of, sometimes I am amazed at the disclosure.

This ties into the 2nd evidence based strategy congruent with Restorative Justice, storytelling.  We learned how storytelling helps move the trauma in your brain.  From non-language reptilian center, to the cortex area that includes language. 

I have an ego and I was enjoying the training because it was reinforcing.  The day before I was telling a speaker about his amygdala, being the shape of almonds!  He said mine might be almonds, but his are peas!  We shared a laugh, but he understood my explanation of sharing his story. 

In 2009 trainer Frida Rundell, Ph.D. gave us almonds, and explained our amygdala and I STILL have those very almonds!  I was at the IIRP conference and the session was sharing how restorative justice changes the brain!  I thought about “change of behavior, by a change of brain“!  I’ve stuck with change of heart!

Did you know trauma can make our DNA express itself differently?  It is called epigenetic changes.  Scientists stressed a pregnant rat enough that her pups were born with gray fur (instead of white).  I think about the trauma of domestic violence.  I am motivated to try to bring the healing components of restorative justice to survivors.

I am also a bit skeptical about all this pressure and emphasis on “evidence-based”.  Common sense should prevail.  We don’t have “evidence” of a higher power – however we know that can have a huge impact on people.  Can we create studies that help us?  I think yes.  Can we generalize that what evidence worked in New York City will work in Africa, just because it is “evidence-based”?  It frustrates me.

We put all this stock in the evidence.  The DSM (diagnostic Statistical Manual) is THE book, that gives you the criteria for mental health.  The book has a V -code for Bereavement – apparently if it lasts more than 2 months, you have a problem.  Really?  I mean really?  It seems to me we all know, it takes more than 2 months.  I get that people develop symptoms that become issues.  My point is that we all KNOW it takes more than 2 months.  If we rely exclusively on evidence based, we dismiss our common sense, our hard-earned professional wisdom and we aren’t helping each other as humans.  I prefer the model blogged on here.

Use a restorative belief system, to implement Restorative Justice.

From the book Tribes, by Seth Godin, author, blogger, speaker and agent of change:

Belief

People don’t believe what you tell them.

They rarely believe what you show them.

The often believe what their friends tell them.

They ALWAYS belive what they tell themselves.

What leaders do: they give people stories they can tell themselves.  Stories about the future and about change.

I love making connections to Restorative Justice.  I have learned that stories are the best way to do this.  When you believe in restoration and healing you work from a mindset, a framework and a philosophical approach.  Howard Zehr has a blog entry about the core capacities of a restorative justice practitioner, and that is exactly what I am speaking of.

I believe in being a leader, and I especially appreciate Godin’s segment above (page 138, Tribes) that says leaders give people stories they can tell themselves.  As restorative justice practitioners I think its easy (most of the time) to hold the restorative mindset, or support victims.  Generally victims seeking restorative justice are searching for some healing, some answers or at very least know they want to have an exchange.  When working with offenders, its digging deeper into these stories into stories about the future and about change.

An example, working with someone not yet 21.  He’s been convicted of drunk driving, and assualt, the assualt happened while he was intoxicated.  After attending an underage consumption panel, he wanted to help out more.  We met and discussed what happened, he talked.  I listened.  He talked alot, he shared WAY more than he needed to.  I’ve been reading people all my life, and I am pretty good about sorting out lies.  This young man plead guilty, in his words he lied, to take the plea deal, since he was facing charges involving strangulation, a felony.  I had to take him back and ‘re-story’ things a bit, since he was going to be sharing his story at a future session.

I pointed him back to the first slide of a powerpoint we were just looking at.  It said “Judge None”, I explained that means not judging the courts, the police officers, the people in the system doing their jobs.  We then focused on the things that HE could have changed about that night.  Again from Godin: “stories about the future and about change.” 

That is doing justice.  If this young man’s story, what he told himself anyway, had remained at, the police officers got it wrong, the courts not working, him being forced to lie that wouldn’t have prompted much change within himself.  Now I have him focusing in on himself, what he wants for his life.  We had a longer conversation after this point.  He again shared way more than he needed to, but that gave me an opportunity to empower him to make more choices for himself, that took him in a positive way.

I believe restorative justice works.  I am promoting that if we as pracititioners tell our stories, in ways that help others change what they tell themselves, then we’ll be implementing things much faster.  Find out what people are telling themselves, listen to it, and see if there is room for restorative re-storying!

Assigning blame and assigning innocence, labeling people not the behaviors, prevents both sides from learning.

After 29 years as a law enforcement officer, my friend said he saw 1 out of 1,000 assualts that were only caused by one person.

He was explaining that as a society, we assign blame, and we assign innocence.  I see this, as victim and offender are labeled.  We assign particular services, particular responses based on the label.

I prescribe to the philosophy that people act ‘harmfully’ because they feel ‘wronged’.  They are working to restore their own violated sense of justice.  (Read Preventing Violence by James Gilligan or Dreams from the Monster Factory, Sunny Schwartz).  See conflict is inevitable, violence is not!

What we, as parents, teachers, restorative practioners need to do, it to teach young people how to deal with feelings that they are wronged.  Hitting, punching, choking, fighting, swearing, insulting are not good choices.  How can we respond to constructively prevent future harm, and repair the wrong that happened?

In my opinion, it is to erase those labels as much as possible, victims need protected, offenders need rehabilitated, yet behavior doesn’t happen in isolation, especially the behavior around physical violence.  Please don’t think I am accepting violence, or thinking we should not respond to it, my point is that we should take the situation under consideration in the entire context of “what happened”.

Three situations came to my attention, the “Victim” called the police to report their “Offender”.  The person who placed the call, was then arrested!  Imagine a chain – link to link.  If we only focus on one link, we miss the bigger picture.

I think when it comes to lower end types of violence, (not severe crime/sexual assualts) like conflicts at school, some, NOT all victims hold a piece of culpibility for the situation.  When that happens people carry that around for a long time.

Expressed in Circle:  Years earlier, during hockey practice he lipped off to an upper classman.  The upper classman reacted violently, aggressively.  He was punished by the coach.  The younger person never acknowleged he was deserving of the strike, based on what he had said.  The upper classman accepted his time out, and didn’t say anything.  The storyteller, really carried that guilt.

Another young person in Circle, said the things he did wrong, that he didn’t get caught for, bothered him more, made him feel worse about himself.

Another college age person felt terribly because 10 years earlier, when he was bullied in gym, he fought back, got in trouble, and amends between he and the classmate never happened.  The classmate later died in a car crash.  He is carrying unresolved issues, for not resolving the conflict.

When we lock people into victim roles, we don’t give them the space to realize what they could have done differently.  I really hate the “blame the victim” so I want to clarify the difference.  When we don’t explore “what happened” we are leaving out the story.  In the story you realize what led up to the harmful act.  Maybe just maybe there was a piece of hurtful behavior that could be used as a learning/teaching moment.

I see this when the offender of a racial slur, becomes the victim of violence.  The victim of the statment becomes the offender of the violence.  This is usually when I get called in, because the lines are blurred.  The offending BEHAVIOR was wrong.  And usually, something happened before the racial insult was tossed out.

Interactions just don’t happen in isolation.  Yet we prescribe isolation as a remedy.  I wish we could just teach people to resolve conflict to restore connections, while promoting empathy and self-worth, for everyone involved.  We’d all get over things quicker, we’d get to move ahead without carrying around any baggage.

A perspective on ‘evidence-based’ practice, Important Safety Information: Kris Miner style.

  • Life-threatening skin reactions, including rash, swelling, redness, and peeling of the skin, blisters in the mouth.  Life-threatening swelling of the face, mouth and throat that can cause trouble breathing.
  • Some people have had changes in behavior, hostility, agitation, depressed mood, suicidal thoughts or actions.
  • Common side effects: nausea, sleep problems, constipation, gas and vomiting.  Also reported: trouble sleeping, vivid, unusual or strange dreams.
  • If you, your family or caregiver notice: agitation, hostility, depression, changes in behavior, thinking, or mood not typical for you, or if you develop suicidal thoughts or actions, anxiety, panic, agression, anger, mania, abnormal sensations, hallucinations, paranoia, or confusion, call your doctor.

What the hell?  Why in the world would you take a medication that could or does all of this to you?  I mean really?  The first time I heard this on tv, I thought, how would you know to call your doctor or stop the medication! 

Another example is the weight loss pill, that you need to bring a change of clothes to work, wear dark pants, cause its likely you will have oily discharge or poop your pants!

Do you have faith in the drug industry and the products they promote?  Does it seem odd that the side effects can be worse than the actually problem you had in the first place? 

Why then is so much faith put into ‘evidence-based’ practice for working with youth?  And where are the disclosures, the ‘Important Safety Information’ that should also be included?  You don’t hear that part.  This angle on evidence-based practice was stirred by my reading of the book Deep Brain Learning.  From the introduction:

“Many popular approaches to education, treatment, and juvenile justice are devoid or any scientific rationale but still have enthusiastic proponents.   . . . People may strongly cling to such approaches, even in the absence of any solid evidence . . .”

The authors go on to explain that evidence-based may mean very little, and that some argue  “effectiveness requires random clinical trails as used by the drug industry – as if this inspires much credibility.”  Thats what got me thinking about the drug companies, and the “safety information”.

The authors go on to explain and support the American Psychological Association definition of Evidence-based.  That definition balances evidence-based practice as a 3 legged-stool: 1)informatin about the individual, 2)practice expertise and 3)research from MULTIPLE perspectives. 

I like this, when I teach about Restorative Justice, I use the APA study that rejects zero tolerance and supports restorative justice.  Fact sheet on Zero Tolerance.

Just something to think about.

Not everyone sees restorative justice equally.

One of the WordPress features, is seeing what people have entered in search engines, that directed them to my blog.  In October  someone searched “restorative justice doesn’t work” and was somehow given this blog as an option, and clicked here.

I am glad readers come from all views and opinions of restorative justice.  Ok, true confession, I am glad this blog hasn’t gotten alot of negative comments.  I try to have thick skin, but we’ve all seen those comment sections that get downright rude.  Having said that, as practitioners we are going to face people with a variety of views on Restorative Justice.

This link, is to a post where I talk about Belinda Hopkins 5 levels of engagement.  Here is the Hopkins rating again:

4 – Being Restorative – a mindset and framework at all times

3- Doing – You facilitate process

2-Referring– you pass cases on to RJ

1- Interested – curious about using RJ

0 – Unaware or ignorant to what RJ is

1 – Opposed or against RJ

Dan Van Ness from RJOB, found recent reactions to RJ fell into 3 categories:  (from his blog post)  “The comments seem to fall into three categories: 1) one group is simply supportive of the new approach, 2) another likes it in theory but believes it will not work, and 3) the third argues that only sanctions that engender fear will reduce youth offending.”

I think people are ready lock up others . . . until it their own family member.  I think people can say “I believe it, but it won’t work” until their own lives force them to be in a place where deep respect, honest communication, and conflict resolution is needed.  Although I am a deeply optimistic person, I can accept there are and will be people that will just never move off of the Hopkins ratings (0 or -1).  I spend my energy on the people that move from a 1 to a 2 to a 3 and then to a 4.  (future post).

Yesterday I had a networking meeting, getting to know a local attorney in solo practice.  He made an excellent point about situations that come up and force people to think differently.  He mentioned a situation, I was well aware of.  The incident forced the community  to face the fact that it’s not just “bad kids” that get in trouble.  He talked about how people were forced to realize it’s not just “them”, “others” that kids can make mistakes, even the hometown high school quarterback.

I can’t count the times people have told me this case would have been “PERFECT” for restorative justice.  I even actually ‘chased the ambulance’ and at the prompting of my board of directors I sent a letter to the a victim representative, and the prosecutors.  Nearly 3 years ago, a group of high school students, did a senior “prank” and vandalized other schools.  They did this in a manner to make it look like students from a different school were the perpetrators.  Three years later and this case is still being identified as  “perfect” for restorative justice, yet we never got the referral.  Why?

I look at the charts above.  Someone somewhere wasn’t ready.  They must have been at a 1 or lower on the Hopkins Model or a 2 or 3 on the VanNess groupings.

I reflect on this, and I hope I’ve moved our program ahead.  I think I have.  One local prosecutor is sending cases, much more frequently than he did 3 years ago.  SCVRJP is renting a second room, to have space for more Circles.  Our board of directors is really connected and committed.  I think these are good signs.  Signs that maybe the next time a incident that comes up, forcing people to see the good kids differently, then maybe we will get an opportunity to use Restorative Justice.

Until then, I’m gonna have a great time working on the cases I do have, and continuing to let the Restorative Justice principles guide my actions and support all my relationships.

mitakuye oyasin

Update on the question: what do you know alot about and how did you get to know it

I mentioned the getting acquainted question in this post.  I gave it a try and was really impressed with how it worked.  Once again the Circle process did not fail me.

It was cute to see the person wearing a t-shirt with a soccer ball on it, say she knew alot about soccer, because she had played it since she was 5.  Or the person that said, he knew alot about movies, because he watches so many.  Some shared how they knew alot about the place they worked, from working there so much.

It was a slightly different turn on a question I had used in the past, asking people about something they were “good” at and who taught them.  Instead of a judgment of being good or bad at something, this question just drew out the fact a person had information about it.

One person really caught me off guard.  He said he knew alot about drugs, and knew that from using them.  It seemed I was the only one that flinched.  Before another second passed the talking piece was in the hands of the next person and the answers were all more typical.  Knowing alot about baseball, video games, horses.  Of the many circles that I have tried that question on , that was the only response that included something against the law.

I wonder what the ripple effect has been for the person that shared that.  I noticed some remorse in the statement, the non-verbal cues, I suspect the person is in recovery, but I don’t know.  It certainly wasn’t stated as a bravado or bragging, from my perspective it sounded ashamed.  Judging from the non-response in the Circle, I suspect it is something the others may have also known.

What strikes me is that you can place something in the Center of the Circle, and it is there.  It is just there.  How many things in our life do we get to just have, without judgment being placed on them.  If its not others judging it, its probably ourselves.  Doe these questions ever rattle your brain?

“Am I good enough?  Did this measure up?  Is someone else doing it this way?  Will my boss approve?  Do I look fat in this?  Will I be able to do this?  Why did she look at me like that?”

By putting something in the Center of a Circle and not having it judged we are able to remove ourselves from it just enough to look at it differently.  If you think others see you as “wrong” you just immediately defend yourself.  If you are certain you are right, they are wrong, again, responding to defend.  The defending over rides the ability to simply look at what you put in the center of the circle.  I believe it takes self-awareness to change.  How can you change if you are being defensive, you have your back to your idea, you are defending it.  If we don’t judge we allow people to also look at what they put in the center.  To look at it and see if that is what they want for themselves.

I hope there was growth for the person who said that.  I hope by being the only person in Circle that answered like that he found something.  I know I found that not judging it may have been the best thing to do.

Overcoming the feedback that I couldn’t write a story.

One of my college dreams was to be a TV news reporter.  It was maybe my 2nd or 3rd major in college, and I felt “at home” as a Mass Comm (communications) major.

newreporter

I wanted to be the talented, smart and pretty woman in front of the camera.  I worked really hard at writing and developing interesting stories.  My main professor, a recently retired TV news director, had no faith in my abilities.  And honestly maybe my story writing did suck.

The professor eventually suggested that I consider my area to be behind the camera.  Mid-semester I found out I was pregnant.  I had not place to turn, I went for it.  I lost my figure and my confidence for being in front of the camera anyway.  I did a final project on a “doggie hysterectomy”.  I filmed a vet doing the surgery on the dog.  At one point I focused in on his face, and in his glasses you could see the refletion of his work.  It was really good, and I heard after college a classmate did that type of story for a news station and won an award for it.

I finished the semester out, while still pregnant,  I brought my fears to this professor.  The fears of pursuing my goals as a photojournalist and being a single Mom.  He told me some of his hardest working and best employees were single Moms.  He said that they are so used to working hard and doing it alone at home, that they bring this work ethic to their job.

This was the beginning of seeing myself outside the box of shame I was in.  The only thing I saw about myself, was “unwed mother” or “unworthy” having a kid on my own, without a spouse, surely that meant I was ‘easy’ as well.  There is a difference about having unwed sex, and then being ‘caught’ at it, by getting pregnant.  Anyway – –

I kept all the good of his perpective that single moms are hard working, and I kept the bad, his feedback I could not tell a story.  And 17 years later I started blogging. 

Blogging is storytelling.  Blogging is writing.  I can do this, and I will only get better as I continue to do this.

A recent tweet, reinforced this.  The blog post link, provides details on how blogging has been influencial in the careers of some popular and successful people.

One of the things I tell people:   

It’s not what happens to you, its the story you tell yourself about it.

So it’s time I tell the story, that I can tell a story.  I’ve learned the power of storytelling and I’m willing to live it by changing my story.

Instead of: “I can’t”, it’s “I can”.

Got any “cants” to make “cans” . . . go for it!

Helping others is hard work, keep your focus, imitation is easy.

This piece of wisdom has stayed with me for nearly a decade.  I had the opportunity to someone a ride.  She was really a strong leader and she brought a great deal forward in gender-based responses, both in criminal justice and human services.  I guess if they give an award in her name, that’s probably an indication of her contribution.  I would also say she was a good feminist.  Her bumper sticker:  well behaved women rarely make history.

On this car ride, I asked all I could think of.  I listened where I needed.  She was a little bitter about being let go from a job, in her words “because we wouldn’t shut up”.  I think the bureaucracy she worked for didn’t want to hear about treating girls in juvenile justice differently.

She told me that she saw, and thought that people will start to imitate the population they serve.  She suggested I carefully consider where I wanted to work.  I’ve carried this advice in my back pocket.  I’ll looked for it in life.  I’ve seen it play out, not all the time, but a lot.

Look at the MN Gang Strike Task Force, shut down in May, corrupt.  I heard a public radio interview with an expert and I learned that this type of corruption is more prevalent in gang, drug and vice units.  MN NPR story, here.  The University of Nebraska staff said that it’s because those units are isolated from the rest of the police force.  Hmm, imitation of the population served.

Now, I can go here, I used to be a domestic violence advocate, a shelter worker.  Matter of fact I still have a feminist poster in my laundry room.  I got it back in the day.  The days when I was making my own t-shirts that said “Good Shootin’ Nellie”.  Nellie went to court and shot the man that molested her daughter.  I was pissed off back then.  I woke up to just what a mess it was that women were property.  I spread the word about domestic violence, and I was not happy.  Some guy in a bar said “nice, ass” to me, I turned around and lectured him up one side and down the other.  Sure I had educated him on the better treatment of women I turned around and started to walk away.  Not before I heard him say, “what a bitch”.  My friends caught me and contained me before I went for his eyeballs.  One of them said, “but, Kris, I think he liked you”.  I took a drink of my beer and realized that being mad about it, didn’t get me anywhere.

I’ve seen angry DV advocates, and I’ve seen ones promoting restorative justice.  I’ve seen child support workers, fried to a crisp, and barely there because it’s all about the money, the law, the process of what they can and cannot do.  Almost powerless. 

I’ve enjoyed my friends that work in alternative schools, they are pretty cool people.  Are they imitating the kids, or in that case, are they all just better off because they are a little ‘alternative’.  I love these people.  Jay gave me the idea that you can run the whole show, and wear sandals to work.  I taught anger management in a room that had stuff glued on the walls, everywhere!  I did get on a chair and change the non-functioning clock.  It was on 4:20.  (that means smoking weed)

So what do we as restorative justice practitioners start to imitate.  Well, we have to be careful.  You could end up imitating the offender who minimizes responsibility.  Or the parent who over-reacts, under-reacts what their youth did.  What about imitating victims.  There are some that have one single solitary need, and no one could meet it.  Or the victim that remains a victim, by keeping what happened in-front of them, instead of working thru it.

What’s MOST important, is to keep being restorative, stay focused . . . remember that harms, needs, obligation and engagement are the elements.  Bringing victims, offenders and community members together means staying smaller than the process.  My personality, needs and judgements are NOT to be served, this is about everyone else.  It’s about exploring past harms that led an offender to feel justified.  It’s about exploring the needs, wishes and what these things mean to a victim.  I guess it’s best to imitate your own community and what community means to you.