Love as a path to accountability. Care and connection as expressions of love.

I’ve been home a few days and I am still in “awe” over my experience at the Idaho Juvenile Justice Association Conference.  It really struck me how hard people are working to engage young people in meaningful, healing relationships.  The fact this is good for community, reduces harms and builds safer, healthier adults was really understood.

Taking ‘restorative’ language to court paperwork, community service and moving to engage victims demonstrated real and intentional creation of healing and accountable process.  True system change was happening and in the process of happening.

I prepared presentations trying to address my audience.  As a former juvenile justice supervisor, I know the day-to-day caseload demands often trump the development of a new program or service.  It was important for me to present the information in a way that demonstrated how SCVRJP does session AND provide workers with some tools for the ongoing models of supervision.

I know some real dynamite, dedicated and awesome juvenile justice workers.  I know they have a spark, a passion and a real LOVE for the work.  I think that is the kind of love for the work, that leads to accountability in individuals.  Restorative Justice accountability begins with acknowledging you’ve caused harm.

If people deny their role in a harmful act, I believe that comes from two places.  1) the fear of punishment or 2) the loss of self-worth to be associated with such a harmful act.  To care about someone means to hold how they feel about themselves in regard.  When offenders deny, minimize or flat-out lie about involvement, some are quick to judge and label the person.  Labels take away humanity.

Working with people to take accountability can be especially hard when the person didn’t mean to cause the harm.  The intentionality for the doer, is how they judge themselves.  Consequences of choices exist, meant to or not.  It is the traffic fatality cases that have taught me so much about holding people accountable with care and connection.  It comes down to that great Gayle King quote:

Kids don’t care what you think, until they think you care.

Holding care and connecting to an individual as a human being, means looking beyond the act/incident of harm.  Restorative Justice is about HEALING and ACCOUNTABILITY.  A caring, non-judgmental adult who is truly interested in the well-being of a teen, especially teens that have broken the law, is a gem of a person if you ask me.  I was in a treasure box of gems in Idaho.

Restorative Justice, beyond the victim-offender conference.

From an article in the Eau Claire Leader.

HUDSON – Randy Spence admits it would take a miracle for him to ever forgive the drunken driver who killed his daughter.

But Spence also realizes how close he came to possibly taking the lives of four people years later when checking his phone and running a stop sign.

Spence, 55, an attorney who lives in River Falls, is very emotional when discussing the death of his daughter, Alyssa, and is humbled that an accident he caused didn’t have tragic consequences.

Spence regularly makes presentations at schools and other events. He provides a detailed, heart-wrenching account of the devastation he and his family have endured at the hands of a drunken driver.

“If I convince one person not to drink and drive, doing this is worth it,” Spence said last week at the St. Croix County Government Center during a St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program session.

Alyssa Spence, 21, died five days after a near head-on collision April 13, 2003, near River Falls. Ryan C. Foley, now 30, pleaded guilty in Pierce County Court to homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle.

Foley, a UW-River Falls student who had been at taverns and a house party before the crash, was sentenced to seven years in prison followed by five years of extended supervision. He was released from prison in October 2010.

Foley had a blood alcohol level of 0.235 percent, almost three times the legal limit, when he crossed the centerline and hit the car Alyssa was driving. She died on her mother’s birthday.

“When you lose someone it’s hard to let go,” a tearful Spence said. “That’s still how it is, how it always will be. I miss her every day.”

Ready to talk

Spence said he was never interested in taking part in the Restorative Justice Program, which involves school and community-based programs that emphasize repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior. It allows, in part, for victims and offenders to meet.

“I have no interest to ever be face to face with the murderer of my child,” Spence emphasized.

But his involvement with the program changed about 9:45 p.m. July 29, 2010, when he ran a stop sign after playing golf and having a couple of beers at a rural River Falls course. His car hit a Lexus SUV broadside. Two women in the SUV were injured, with one, 63, receiving three fractured vertebrae, a broken ankle and broken rib.

Spence assisted the people at the scene, where he also broke down emotionally and told police about the traffic death of his daughter, according to police accounts. Spence said he looked down to check a message on his phone when he ran the stop sign.

He was charged with two misdemeanor counts of causing bodily harm by reckless driving. He entered into a deferred prosecution agreement, meaning the charges would be dismissed if he abided by conditions of the agreement, which included community service.

That service has included talks to students and others about the dangers of drunk driving and inattentive driving.

“My son (Adam) was on a cross country trip, and I saw the light flashing on my phone. I went into a panic with the memory of Alyssa, thinking something might have happened to him,” Spence said. “The whole thing was kind of ironic. I could have killed someone.

“I was allowed to enter into the DPA if I engaged in restorative justice,” he added. “I realized that my original hesitation with restorative justice was misplaced, and if my daughter was here, I know she would want me to do this.”

Making an impact

Spence starts his presentation with a video of his daughter that graphically displays her injuries from the crash, a presentation his wife, Bobbi, has never seen.

“My wife is the strongest person I know, but I don’t think she would ever want to see this; she lives the loss every day,” he said.

Deb Ottman, a family consumer science teacher at River Falls High School, has witnessed emotional and varied responses students have after Spence’s presentation, including one last week.

“It’s very hard to listen to. He definitely comes across with quite an impact, and the kids are very emotional and have lots of questions when he leaves,” Ottman said. “I can tell the kids have been affected at some level.”

Ottman’s life skills class is for juniors and seniors, and covers conflict resolution, decision making, grief and relationships, “items they will be dealing with their whole lives.

“Each kid takes away something different,” she said. “The idea is that we get to hear each other’s story and learn from it. In this case, kids might not be so willing to drink and drive or text while they drive. Any gain is a gain.”

Kris Miner, executive director of SCVRJP, said there is great value to victim impact panels, teen driving circles, victim empathy seminars and other programs.

“The key is to change behavior by a change of heart; the idea of choosing a different behavior when faced with a similar situation,” she said. “You make your choice, but you don’t choose your consequences.”

Rupnow can be reached at 715-830-5831, 800-236-7077 orchuck.rupnow@ecpc.com.

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!

 

 

Atten Schools! Violence prevention and conflict resolution solutions that work!

The Saturday Pioneer Press, front page story: Friend Me, Fight Me.  Short version, issues outside of school, erupted at school and a Mother is very, very upset.

I shake my head.  I get confused.  My google alert for ‘Restorative Practices’ has changed over time.  In the last year the references have moved from dental and yoga articles, to articles about Restorative Justice methods in schools.  The philosophy is generally the same.  As a movement “practices” emerged for schools and  “justice” stayed for community or system services.  I maintain what I do as School-based Restorative Justice.  There is a quote about peace & justice, that for me, justifies the word justice when working in schools.

Here is why, well implemented Restorative Justice would have helped in the ‘Friend Me, Fight Me’ situation.

1.) Prevention – building up the climate and culture of your school, prevents violence.  Isolating grade levels, dividing students out creates “us” and “them”.  By hosting Circle in a school, students get to know each other.  The more you know about someone the less likely you are to hurt them.  What is it . . . an ounce of prevention is more than a pound of cure.  This is where teachers push back on the trainer . . . time, we don’t have time.  I train them, you can select how you use your time.  Use community building circles as part of academic delivery!  Teach in Circle, if kids feel safe, they learn more!  Test scores can increase by using school-based restorative justice!  I suspect the ‘Friend Me, Fight Me’ could have been avoided in an environment where violence prevention was emphasized and implemented WELL.

2.)Values/Citizenship – when schools or communities create more rules, then people focus on how to not get caught breaking that rule.  Students need to learn how they are impacting people.  You need to teach them to listen, in order to teach empathy.  The ‘Friend Me, Fight Me’ story is a great example.  The students thought about having it at school, so teachers would break it up!  Students are aware of where they can have behaviors so they will get caught or not.  School-based Restorative Justice teaches and informs you of how important who you are is.  By acknowledging that everyone is a social, emotional, mental and spiritual being we allow space for non-judgemental self-expression.  Students no longer have to “prove” themselves, because they are being heard.  Most of the “proving” is to identify with a negative culture, because unfortunately, we have a lot of work to do on our climate and culture.   Young men defend their “honor” and when taunted to fight, rather than be accepted for who they are  . . . ‘Friend Me, Fight Me’

3.)Inclusion – School-based Restorative Justice, had it been in place (and been implemented well)  for ‘Friend Me, Fight Me’ would have resulted in a conflict resolution that involved those most impacted.  In the photo the Mom is standing over her son.  She would have been involved in the process to repair the harm.  She would have been given a ‘say’ about what needed to happen.  The support people around each student would have been given opportunity to share their voices.  Students who have authored a harmful act, hear from the direct target and BYSTANDERS, which is so very important.

4.)Solution focused – None of us can change the past.  Understanding why someone did something is important to move ahead.  Operating, in the moment to respond and repair things, and then moving to the future and making agreements and commitments is part of school-based restorative justice.  I just wonder if this type of method, vs the formal suspension, expulsion could have prevented the front page splash for Anoka School District.   I can hear the push back . . . students need discipline.  Yes, they do.   Restorative discipline does not mean a “time out” doesn’t happen, it means it is done in a manner that includes those most impacted, focusing on accountability and healing. 

It is a shift to turn matters over to Circles and accept the outcomes they create.  From seeing more and more things in the paper about schools and bullying, schools and social media, schools and violence, I continue to advocate for Restorative Practices, School-Based Restorative Justice, Restorative Measures, what ever you call it if it is the philosophy and it is done well.  Amen.

As a side, this mornings Google Alert gave me lots of hope, of the 10 results only 2 were not about Restorative Justice!  Here are the results:

News4 new results for restorative practices
Conflict resolution tool coming to schools
CottageCountryNow.ca
Boulder DA: Police should step back from school discipline
Daily Camera
“We definitely have a restorative practices philosophy to all of our discipline,” said Michele DeBerry, director of athletics, activities, attendance and …

MPS honors prosecutor for restorative justice efforts
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
MPS now enjoys an army of restorative practices advocates,”

Justice, community and discipline in Oakland schools (Community …
Oakland Local
According to Barbara McClung of OUSD’s Complementary Learning

Blogs4 new results for restorative practices
Sacrament of Reconciliation and Restorative Justice | Theology as …
By Jacques Haers
Theology as a Process – http://jacqueshaers.wordpress.com/

What is Restorative Yoga? | Yoga Matrika

Restorative Circles: Justice without Classism
By Jerry Koch-Gonzalez
This alternative justice system exists in a variety of forms knows as restorative justice and restorative practices.

Class Action – http://www.classism.org/

 restorativepractices.co.uk – http://www.restorativepractices.co.uk/
‘Restorative Justice’ School Program Reduces Student Delinquency
Shared by Yvette Vignando – The International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) provides education, consulting and research supporting the …
organizedwisdom.com/restorative-justice-school…/med

Keeping Restorative Justice, R-E-S-T-O-R-A-T-I-V-E Justice.

In the recent issue of WisKids Journal published by the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families (WCCF)an article was titled:  Restorative Justice Light –  Something to Think About for RJ Programs (link to article).

One of the WCCF projects is Justice for WI Youth, the project staff person is Jim Moeser, and he authored the article.

I would recommend that you read it.  After I read it, I emailed Jim, thanking him for his perspective and input.  I try to stay away from frustrating things in my life.  I get frustrated when the label “restorative justice” is placed on any package that is an alternative to the formal system.  I believe we need to advocate for what it is we do.

R-respect, the basis for all RJ work.  You have to know who Howard Zehr is, and he provided great illustrations in the Little Book of Restorative Justice, a must read for all professionals in the field or those utilizing restorative services.

E-empathy.  It extends to victims, offenders AND community members.  It is a value you role model, teach, encourage and use to guide transformation.

S-solutions.  RJ addresses the social and emotional aspects of crime, it gives people a place to identify what is needed to make things right.

T-trust.  RJ is not an easy process.  You should never stop trying to learn this art & science and trust the framework provided.  Trust people to find their own healing and respect their journey.

O-optimistic.  When I first hear about people and values, it keeps my optimistic.  Keeping a view that people are good and that systems can change is important to stay on track as a restorative practitioner.

R-research.  We owe it to the movement and to ourselves to utilize the results of research.  A recent example: http://concord.patch.com/articles/restorative-justice-circle-gets-nod-from-cops.  I plan to send the article and a reminder that SCVRJP will take referrals from law enforcement. 

A-accountability.  This morning it just flew out of my mouth “you have to do accountability with a soft hand”.  I was talking about facilitating a Circle.  Holding people’s hearts and humanity about what they did, takes a special skill set.  A closed heart, like a closed parachute does no good.  Opening up your heart and realizing what you have done, and then being accountable, by DOING something to repair the harm, makes a difference.  I love accountable victims, the ones that seek and participate in Restorative Justice, helping the community by preventing further re-offending.

T-time.  RJ is not a quick fix.  It takes time to heal.

I-intuitive.  Restorative Justice work, goes by the gut.  I can’t completely explain how to monitor emotional climate in circles, I just ‘know’ the work requires you to listen to yourself.

V-victim initiated.  Those two words are simple, yet can be tricky.  A victim was asking for RJ to lift a no-contact order.  RJ is not to be done to assist offenders, we delicately worked around this one.  Victims NEED and MUST be at the heart of all restorative justice work.

E-everyone.  Inclusive process is key.  Engage the people impacted by the conflict or crime you are addressing, restorative-ly.  As Jim indicated in his article, considering the Victim, Community AND Offender is RJ.

What gets to “justice”? Perspectives, understanding perspectives.

I was fortunate to be asked to help facilitate a series of Circles that involved law students, inmates and various speakers.  The speakers were volunteers from various aspects of the criminal justice system (a victim, police officer, judge, prosecutor, public defender).

I met a man who, as a person, has stayed with me.  You know when you meet people and there is “something” to them.  It struck me that I held a prejudice/judgement that all offenders would feel adversarial about the criminal justice system.  This man did not feel that, he felt grateful he lived in a state that did not have the death penalty.  I would never have expected to meet someone grateful for a life sentence.  He also had a committment to his fellow man, to making a decent life with what he had.  I experienced him as humble and respectful.

After learning more of his story, I started to feel there was an “in-justice”.  My perspective changed as I learned more.

Restorative Justice is victim-centered.  From the perspectives of the victims, the crime was horrible.  I know another victim who gives me a perspective I would not have expected.  I found her perspective a little hard to explain.  I was sharing an invitation I had received to a “homecoming”.  The homecoming was coming after 17 1/2 years in prison for taking a life.  The homecoming is detailed on the website, From Death to Life.

What I explained to my new friend was how people say the Lord’s prayer and say “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us”.  For some who have experienced a loved one’s murder, and they say that prayer, Restorative Justice helps, if a dialogue is desired to do the forgiving.

Mary Johnson, founder of From Death to Life, lived and continues to live a Restorative Justice experience.  Her perspective shows us that finding justice is a journey.

Justice depends on your perspective and I believe our perspectives change as we meet people, live different experiences.

It’s been feeling “unjustified” to me that my brother’s wife has leukemia.  Yet it was shared with me that she isn’t mad.  Thank goodness, because anger takes up lots of energy.  She needs her energy for healing.  I guess Megan isn’t mad at anyone, because the diagnosis has shown her how much she is loved and made her realize how much she loves everyone else.  So it comes down to LOVE.

The greatest law of all, to LOVE.  Maybe that is how we get to a place of our own ‘justice’ is when we find a place of ‘love’.  Justice might just be as personal as love and spirituality, for each person to know on their own, and not to be judged for any choices.

When managing your Restorative Justice program, manage your continuum of referrals.

I was going to be a TV news reporter.  I have always had a fascination and interest in why people do what they do.  I’ve always wanted to solve problems and I use my practical experiences to do that.  After working as a in-home family therapist, a social worker and a human services supervisor, I had some understanding of how people work, how the formal justice system works. 

Not all crime is reported. 

Sometimes the systems in place to help people can actually hurt them.

When I began as the Executive Director at SCVRJP I wanted to help Victims/Offenders and Community Members.  That is the restorative triad after all.  I knew something.  I knew that a number of people are victims to crime and sometimes that criminal incident doesn’t see a court room.  If they don’t get the person who harmed you, there are no “victim-witness services”.  Sometimes someone commits a crime and it goes unreported.  It could be fear of retaliation or embarrassment of being a victim.  There are a number of reasons why crime doesn’t see a court room.  Regardless, victims are hurt.

Therefore I try to balance my efforts and implementing and engaging referring agencies.  Here is a visual:

Pre-diversion

Direct from our community.  This requires a public awareness campaign.  This requires a reputation for being effective.  This is where victims can call your program and ask for help.  A family was referred our program, they didn’t want the juveniles involved going directly into the system.  We addressed the case, people volunteered to be part of it.  It was slightly frustrating because I saw people wanting what they didn’t have.  Some parents of the offending youth didn’t feel they had their “day in court”.  What they didn’t know was that it would have been several days.  They would not have had their day, as much as being part of the flow of the process.  As a facilitator I had to accept where people were at and support the concerns that the case did not go through the formal process.  We had a powerful process and I believe the issues have been resolved.

Diversion

This referral comes directly from law enforcement or from the front line.  There is a willingness by people in the formal system to trust your restorative work.  This requires engaging these people of influence and developing relationships that reinforce the diversion was a good choice.  Diverting cases to restorative justice means that the formal system turns it over, diverts it from the formal route.  This can be done with formal options pending a failed restorative justice process or lack of engagement participation by the parties involved.  At this level victims may or may not engage, usually this is an offense viewed as lesser in the eyes of the formal system, likely it involved property crimes and not crimes against people.  Property crimes have a big impact on peoples perception of community it is important to seek out serving your community on these kinds of cases.

Alternative response 

This is referral that includes the formal system.  Alongside restorative justice might be a deferred agreement or a fine.  The formal system is viewing restorative justice as a partner.  This requires your restorative justice program to meet the courts needs and perspectives.  You may now also be having to manage victims that have may be disillusioned with the formal response.  Families of juveniles can be slightly frustrated at this point.  Often times a great deal of time has passed since the incident and people are feeling like they want to get things “over with”.  Communication with the referring agency is important to manage, they want to know the offender has completed everything.  As a restorative justice program, you are working on victims and community needs as well.  Managing a restorative justice program and offering only these kinds of services doesn’t fully engage the community and work to transform the formal system, like the entry points to the left.

Court Ordered

As part of a formal response, restorative justice is now required of the offender.  This might also include when restorative justice is offered in prison settings.  In my experience little victim participation at this end.  Those that do participate make a great deal of influence in any case, at any point.  People are tired and frustrated at this point, actually I can get tired when cases come at this end.  For example, I am already working with a young man.  The incident we are addressing is also in the formal system.   I suspect he will be sent back to SCVRJP for a service.  It will be awhile, 7 weeks between his first court hearing and the next.  The incident happens, it goes all through this process and comes back to SCVRJP.  I hope we might be able to go from incident to response sooner someday.  Court ordered restorative justice means people will have to pay for your service.  SCVRJP makes a portion of revenue by our Victim Impact Panels, as a requirement to get your driver’s license back, you must attend. 

It’s important to manage your program and take cases of all shades.  Howard Zehr posted a blog highlighting that restorative justice will be restorative when all victims have access, regardless of the offenders being in court.  I agree.

Small acts of kindness go a long way – and Restorative Justice is effective for being personal.

I am in beautiful Boise Idaho.  The 2nd Annual Northwest Alcohol Conference – it’s already seeming like it will be a good conference.  Last night in our hotel room, my daughter and I were starteled by a knock at the door.  Surely, they must have the wrong room, “I have a delivery for you”.  What!?  I spent a little time with an ex boyfriend, would he send something?

It was a basket of goodies from conference director!  Welcoming me, thanking me for presenting and the basket was full of Idaho produced items.  We had a water bottle, teas, chocolates, cinnamon flavor popcorn.  I got an example postcard and bookmark, reminding people underage that even one drink is impairment.  The sentiment was the most fun!  My daughter and I camped out on her bed, looked all the items over.  Before we left the airport, we heard about the Idaho candy potato.  Potato shaped marshmallow covered in chocolate, rolled in coconut, we examined it but didn’t taste.

So I am here to present on using Restorative Justice to address Underage Drinking and Drunk Driving.  My source is going to be the success of the SCVRJP underage consumption panels and victim impact panels.  I’ll use the data that we collect at these panels, the evaluation forms, which shows that people feel strongly immediately after the class.  The make strong public statements of behaving differently.  I believe they work.  I strongly and firmly believe in Restorative Justice.

I am trying to work out another diversion program.  I’ve been negotiating with our local district  attorney/prosecutor, I was more of the case and sooner.  I’d like the diversion program to mean a few less court appearance.  I’d like the community conference outcomes to be ahead not behind what is finally “ordered”, so that our conference ‘work’ is endorsed by the court.  See I am working on making waves and not rocking the boat.  For me, ideally, there would not be one court hearing – you would go to Restorative Justice and if that didn’t work – the traditional system.  PLEASE NOTE – I am not talking about violent crimes.  I am talking about ‘car shopping’, smoking pot, fighting at school, drunken destruction of property.  Things that I think a good session of Restorative Justice and those in attendance (community members) could monitor any obligations (community service, restitution). 

See when Restorative Justice and the formal system address crime – similar outcomes can be listed, like community service.  That makes sense you right a wrong.  The formal system does it to punish, and Restorative Justice does it to repair.  We give the lesson with the support of other people, personally.

I was on the phone with a young person who had called the Center to sign up for an underage class.  I said, “who sent you here”, he said “the courts”.  I laughed a little (we work with 7 different courts).  His view is of “authoritative agency” – not a person.  After last nights Underage class . . . you can bet every single kid there knows that Catherine, Kyle, Gerry and Max care.  If you asked who was at Restorative Justice – they say a name, a person.  Okay, sometimes they forget the name, but they don’t forget the story.  “the guy that talked about killing his friend, man that was heavy, he’s really strong”.

So why does Restorative Justice work so well . . . because it’s personal!  Personal makes all the difference.  That gift basket – worth its weight in GOLD – because it was a small, random, unnecessary act of kindness.  The added touch gave me a sense of “belonging” and being part of the conference.  Sitting with volunteer community members because they “care” is also a small and random act of kindness.  Yet, very necessary because it is really makes a difference in helping people turn things around!

Restorative Justice is victim centered, we all have obligations to support each other.

There are three responses to victimization.  Revenge, Retaliation and Restoration.

At first people think the first two are the same.  They are different, think of revenge going out and retaliation going in.

Revenge can turn some victims into a victimizer.  I’ve seen it happen on many occassions.  The person harmed is so angry they want to add as much restitution as possible.  The worth of a broken vase is very little to the offender.  To the victim the item had great sentimental value.  The loss of trust and security for the victim, cannot be put in dollars and sense.  The formal justice system can only deal with dollars and sense. 

Side story.  I really wanted to get a case to Restorative Justice.  A teen girl was home alone, invited three boys over.  When she and one boy were alone, the other two decided to start stealing.  When glass shattered the girl wondered what had happened, went to investigate and the boys all took off.  They had been drinking at the time.

The Dad gets a call, from his daughter “we’ve been robbed”.  They are worried for her, rush home.  His clothes were taken, even his house slippers.  One thing that was left outside smashed was heart wrenching.  When Dad was serving in Vietnam he and 5 buddies went on R & R.  They all signed a bottle.  Only two of the men are still alive.  He carried that bottle through life and had planned for it to go in his coffin.  Now it was gone. 

I saw this Dad as a great guy, he reminded me of my own Dad.  He got himself sober, about 30 years ago, started a sober Motorcycle club, and was a volunteer Emergency Medical staff.  He acknowledged being quite the badass in his day.  He gave back via volunteer service.  He acknowledged it was to payback for wrongs he had committed.  I am pretty sure he even spent some time in jail.

I never got to do Restorative Justice.  The Offenders were so pissed off.  They were pissed they were coping with felonies.  Pissed off that the restitution was so high.  Pissed off because they were drunk, and she let them in.  They really saw what had happened as minimilizing.

When I had met with the Dad, he made some comments.  He wanted to tell these boys he could have used a different system of justice.  He wasn’t meaning my little non-profit, talking piece kind of justice.  He knew his angry would have to be controlled.  He acknowledged this and we had a completely seperate meeting to address this.

The offenders never got to a point of accepting they caused harm.  One drifted in and out of jail, the other was so focused on how he had been wronged.  I was getting the urge to yell at him.  The ultimate hurdle is harm . . . RJ repairs harm not causes harm.  I use this as a measure and I couldn’t get a sense we would have physical safety during the conference.  I screened the case our of conferencing.

See Revenge is out – towards others.  And when a formal system seeks revenge it impacts people is away that they don’t take obligations for fear of more revenge.  (the point of the story above).

Retaliation goes in.  This is the victim that starts to blame themselves, or takes responsibility for the crime.  If only I had ______.  Then this would not have happened.  Retaliation can mean you get a alarm system or you no longer leave your car unlocked.  It can go outward, now you treat all people that look like your victimizer the same way.  I have a friend and she says she doesn’t have to like Indians because she experienced one threaten her with a broken bottle. 

I’m really simplifying the Revenge, Retaliation and Restoration.  I just want you to be aware of these three.  Just like the stages of grief people can revist these.  When you work with victims explore these concepts and ideas, see what the vicitm things and feels.  It was in talking this over with that Dad, I learned so much about him, and he knew what revenge he could have done.

We will also experience feels when we put restorative justice in motion.  Be aware of your own stuff.  Make sure you know what is going on inside of you – related to responding to the crime.  And I must note, again – Restorative Justice is NOT for everyone.  If you feel it is for you and you have been a victim of a crime – you have options.  Find a good program and explore those options.  You can speak to the offender directly in your case.  You can speak to others that had done a similiar crime, or are on a path to committ a similiar crime.  You can tell your story to help others. 

Restoration is not a one size here is the recipe to get there.  Restoration is as individual as each crime and each person.  Restoration does not always mean Restorative Justice, it is just one of the options.  I don’t know what else the formal system offers that supports this so I encourage crime victims to explore Restorative Justice.