My favorite way to do restorative justice is with Circle process. I have developed a clear structured style of using 4 stages. If you aren’t familiar with that, you could read all the entires in the category: circle stages. The other basic restorative justice circle elements include those described by Kay Pranis. By keeping certain common elements of Circle, like the use of ritual/opening and a talking piece you can provide structure that allows people a freedom to share and open up.
Although the structure and elements of Circle should prevail, common sense (which has become for to uncommon) should also be used.
Prepare. An important aspect of Restorative Justice is to prepare the parties to be together. To understand the intentions of restorative justice. This takes skills, you don’t control the outcome, because the process creates the outcome. This can also take preparation of yourself, to let go.
Prevent wrong. If you have students in conflict, make sure agreements are in place about taking breaks. Make sure you have spoken with the students about handling listening, if strong feelings come up. Because you prepare people in the process of Circle, with opening, into and acquainted phases, these lead to space of understanding.
Practice your habits. The common sense part here, is to implement the process correctly, by setting up yourself to develop the skills. If you are learning to cook, you don’t tackle the hardest recipe that requires special tools you don’t have. You would start where you are, obtain the skill and knowledge, the special tools and move on.
If you have a weak Circle, don’t abandon the process. Some Circles are a home-run! Some Circles are a base hit. Seldom do they strike out completely. Very, seldom in my experience. I believe in this process and after facilitating 1,000’s it has become embedded in who I am. That would not have happened if I had given up. If you can find the common sense and practicality of including your personality with the elements of the process I think you will have success.
Other common sense reminders: Circle confidentiality does not cover “mandating reporting” topics. If a student makes a disclosure, they are ready for the process to begin. Depending on the Circle and circumstances, I would make sure that was addressed somehow. Follow-up one to one, or a clarification about keeper making the report.
Balance the context of your Circle, in a juvenile detention center we met right before meal time, the youth had a natural transition and knew when to respect the time. When a school was only able to give short amounts of time, we held the prep meetings, but conducted the problem solving circle after school, so we had more time.
Being a keeper is a rewarding experience. The process is rich, a technology that lets people be the best they can. Listening to others, really listening is something anyone can give to another. You feel better when you give. You also feel better when validated and listened to, common sense things, that only a Circle process and provide equally to a group.