Doing justice for Restorative Justice is not what to think, but how.

This article in Harvard Business Review, the author shares some success in sharing HOW to think, not WHAT to think.  Boom, in my brain, that is why I blog, to help people with Restorative Justice and Circles, and to provide insight in how we might advance ourselves, our services and our collective passion about Restorative Justice and Circles.  How to think about it,  here is an example:

The hot new social media trend is pinterest.  Pinterest is an online pinboard.   Whoever heard of that?  Basically, a pinboard is a place to post pictures that are links to sites, and you can look at what has been pinned, someone elses board of pinned items.  Make sure you have time when you go there, it is addicting.

My first visit to pinterest, I, of course, search the term Restorative Justice.  Results, about restorative yoga, restorative dentistry and lots of photos with comments on how the photo “doesn’t do it justice”.  After reading again and again, “doesn’t do it justice” or “does not do justice”, I put my meaning on the word justice, and began to think about criminal justice, restorative justice and why and how the word was being used in all these photo comments.

I came to this.  In the context of beauty, when a photo “does not do it justice”, it means something about it wasn’t captured, that in real life, there was something much more.  I think it has to do with capturing a spiritual essence, that a photo can not do and real life can.  I think, Restorative Jusitce brings different “justice”.  The kind of justice that includes a spiritual essence, that formal process can not do.  Recently hearing “there are as many definitions of justice as their are victims”.  I am in tune to the individuality of justice and the need to be individually aware of each persons experience and need for justice.

Crime is ugly, there is no way to say that it isn’t.  People are hurt, people are punished, resources and capacity are diminished in the presence of crime.  Humans are not acting on their own greater good when they commit crimes.  Generally here, it was a crime when Rosa Parks didn’t get out of her seat, but that’s another blog post.

Use of the phrase, “doesn’t do it justice” on pinterest, really had me thinking about harvesting the justice (beauty and spiritual essence) in Restorative Justice.  It was actually best said by a teen in Circle.  She looked at the speaker, who had shared the pain of surviving his daughters death, caused by an intoxicated driver, and she told him she was sorry for his loss.  She said it was terrible that it happened and she wished it hadn’t.  She said it was cool that he was telling the story like this.  I saw the expression on the storytellers face.  It appeared he was acknowledged and comforted.  I felt the beauty in that moment of connection between Circle members.  I saw an element of Restorative Justice, as the tragic and fatal car crash created a lesson and touched lives.  This storyteller was harvesting the justice (the beauty and spiritual essence) of what happened.  So much so, that a teen referred to as cool.  You do realize most teens don’t recognize people that are old enough to be their parents as cool?  And that word “cool”, in that moment, it really did do justice.


In Life and in Restorative Justice, shame is a gift; feeling and friendship lead to healing.

A good night’s rest really helps me out.  I’ve got one of those monkey minds.  A “monkey mind” is a Buddist term, rather than staying in the present moment, my thoughts leap from one to another as a monkey leaps from tree to tree.  When I first wake up, I get a moment before the monkey jumping begins!  This morning, things merged and I realized the gift of shame.  Three things merged for me, concepts of shame, a book of stories and a lesson in friend-ing.

From Brene Brown, I learned shame, is the fear of disconnection.  I also learned that the less you talk about it the more you have it.  I love Brene Brown,  here is her TED TALK, “The power of vulernability”, I highly recommend viewing it.  I wrote a blog post and shared her work, earlier this year.

In that context and understanding of shame, I am reading “Wounded Warriors A Time For Healing” by Doyle Arbogast.   From the back cover:

14 personal stories of Native Americans whose pathway to healing has been found
within the beauty and spirituality of their own cultural heritage.  Their lives today reflect responsibility, honor,
and dignity.

I experience life deeply and I have to read these stories
slowly.  The trauma related is real, severe and very directly related to the reader. I get overwhelmed with emotion when the story gets to the ‘watershed
moment’, the decision to pursue healing, sobriety and the embracing of cultural values and spiritual practice.  I believe those individual decisions, those moments of change are miracles.

Similar to the miracles that can happen in Restorative Justice, a moment of deciding that healing is the path.  I blog about this further in the post: The will to live is the will to heal.  We marvel at the miracle a caterpillar makes to a butterfly and we as humans can make those transformations at any time! (Took that from a recent Facebook update).

The third thing that helped me realize that shame is a gift, was a gift in itself.  I’ve been told about a Native American tradition, belief or practice, not exactly sure what you would call it, it is connected to the book above.  Our basic responses, fight, flight, freeze, you read about those responses all the time.  There is a fourth, to friend.  To friend that thing, to reach out your hand, to shake hands, to get to know it, to find out as much as you can, to treat it kindly.  This concept made sense and resonates with me.  The individuals in the stories shared in Wounded Warriors, have gone on to help others as counselors, mentors, educators.   The sharing of their stories, was part of their healing process.  They experienced the feelings to get to healing.   I believe the friend-ing process was part of the feeling.

The gift of shame, is that it points us to what we need to friend.  The gift of shame is that it lets us know
where our disconnection is felt.  Shame lets us know where our healing can be found.

This is a personal and professional intersection.  As Restorative Justice practitioners we can help others and help ourselves with this knowledge.  To help ourselves and others, we need to become comfortable with shame, our own and others. Restorative Justice is about healing.  Healing is fascinating, simple and complex.  Healing is individual and universal.

This monkey just sat on a branch with shame, and neither of us left the same.


Trained teachers offer what Restorative Justice Circles “bridge”.

  I appreciate Sharon Bowman, she has a resource-filled website, great articles and books.  If you follow her on LinkedIn, great powerpoints shared.  Friend and mentor, pictured here, helped me learn how to work and train teachers.  In turn I teach all I can about Circles to her.  She recommended Sharon’s book, the 10 minute trainer.  The activity produced some great results, both in the flow of the training and the reinforcement of Restorative Justice Circles in schools.

I appreciated the side effects of using activities and exercises when training.  The audience is more engaged, the individual perspectives and understanding of the information is reflected by the activities.  The unpredictable-ness feeds my spontaneous style.  I can add a story, or go with explaining concept and it appears in response to the room conversation (vs my deviation from a planned agenda or powerpoint).

This post is a summary of what a group of teacher trainee’s developed in response to the exercise of completing the sentance: Circles are a bridge between ___(blank)___ & ___(blank)___.  Before this exercise, the training group had experienced a circle, heard an introduction on restorative justice and covered the basic facilitation skill-set.  Just a shameless plug – I am happy to provide a training for your district or agency, click here.

Circles are a bridge between . . .

Hurting & Healing

Having a Voice & Being Invisible

Hostility & Harmony

In Individual Heart & Community

A Problem & A Solution

Your Frown & Your Smile

Challenges & Solutions

Fears & Security

Chaos & Harmony

Conflict & Harmony

Conflict & Reconciliation

Whitewater Rapids & Reflection Pool

Peace & Chaos

School & Stewardship (& back, like a Circle)

I have to give this group an A+!

Consider this list an endorsement for the potential Restorative Services outcomes.  How would this list impact your school culture and climate?

A full Circle validation of teachers building relationships, an avenue to community.

I heard a teacher’s response, and I was slightly amused.  She said she builds connections with her students by telling them stories about herself.  This was not a person I knew, I had no relationship with her to know who she was.

I was amused by her response, because frankly it annoyed me she took up our group time to share how she started her hair on fire.  I didn’t know her and I didn’t really care.  I wondered if her students would say that they feel connected because she tells them stories about herself.  I thought about the importance of having a relationship with someone, before you really care about their hair being on fire.

I thought about connecting, for me, to be when someone listens to me.  I thought and became confused, I’m like the teacher, I want to tell my stories.  Think of the feedback loop, where does the connection occur?  In listening/recieving or in speaking/giving?  If I was a better listener to this teacher, would that make us more connected.  Honestly I felt like she needed to listen to connect more with everyone else.

Of course my thoughts then go to testing the theory of Circle.  I think the Circle connection comes because we are doing something together, as a group, a team, a community.  As a group of people in Circle you travel together from Point A to Point B.  As a Circle keeper, I just keep our group on the map, here is getting acquainted, next exit building relationships, rest stop at addressing issues, and lets fill out the travel diary at Taking Action!  (Circle stages).

In my relentless efforts to promote Restoative Justice in Schools, and apply my new socratic method, I asked about a teachers reluctance to be in and use Circles.  I wasn’t speaking with the teacher, but to a person telling me this.  The response was that the teacher was uncomfortable sharing about herself.

“Rules without relationship leads to rebellion”, “you can’t hold a student accountable to a relationship you don’t have”.  I had stopped asking and listening, so I dropped it.  Again, confused, slightly amuzed, but definately aware of the social safety in the enviorment of the school.  I thought it must be low if a teacher isn’t safe to share who she is.  Okay, I did go on to add that an authority figure becomes a person when you know they have a dog, or a kid named Kylie.

Same day, much later.  In a Circle of students.  The question on the talking piece is about using Circles in Schools.  The youth talked about how helpful it would be to have Circles with teachers.  The speaker explained ” it’s easy to judge someone when you don’t know anything about them.  When you see a person everyday, you think, you’ll see them everyday so who cares.  Then you realize you’ve seen them for so long, but you forgot to care who they really are.  I think Circles with teachers would really help us know them, and then probably not be so mean to some of them”

I closed my mouth, my jaw had fell open.  I actually did find my answer . . . by listening.


Different types of Restorative Justice Circles and a practitioner perspective.

Just as there are 12 major markings on the face of a clock, I could list 12 different kinds of Circles.  In four basic categories those Circles would be community building – peace building – repair building – and celebration.  This also creates a full circle!

A very brief explanation on these four categories, followed by a practitioner perspective.  All these Circles use the 4 stages and phases I have written about on this blog.  You use good Circlekeeping skills and techniques for each of these.

Community Building – Boyes-Watson, authored an article titled “Community is not a place but a relationship: lessons for organizational development”.  She explains community not being defined by a place but the perception of personal connectedness.  Boyes-Watson – also authored Peacemaking Circles for Urban Youth.  Community Building Circles connect us to our community.

The practitioner perspective (PP):  create a sense of connection, by using all 4 stages and introduce a deeper discussion on values to address issues.  You may even ask for stories about a time people felt connected, or what connection might look like.

Peace Building – Where might conflict rise?  Is a situation at risk to become a larger issues?  We know the #1 cause of death for people 16-24 is car crashes, so when teen drivers come in, we teach this.  Peace Building can be done when you sense an “at-risk” situation.  For schools – this would be Tier II of PBIS.

PP: Remember, no such thing as a victimless crime.  SCVRJP addresses things like underage consumption and controlled substance use – and we engage individuals from our community ad Circle members, keepers and storytellers.  When there is not a clear and present Victim, others take that voice, but also use what I have called Restorative Grace (extending kindess to the least deserving).

Repair Building – Circles around a specific crime or conflict.  Repairing relationships for victims and their relationship to the crime, the victim to the offender.  The offender to the crime, the offender to the community, the community to the offender and the victim.  A spiderweb of relationship connections are repaired in Repair Building Circles.

PP: Prepare people to come together.  Prepare people to come together.  Prepare people to come together.  Prepare yourself.  You can address and repair harm – no matter how big or small.  Lost pencils in a classroom to lost life.  The more serious the more prep work.  Ask for support for the more serious, use mentoring and take small movements to the deeper issues.

Celebration Circles – Back to where we started, the last segment of the Circle – setting apart Community from Celebration Circles – is that we are already in Community.  Women’s Circles, Serenity Circles, Healing Circles.  If we are grounding our work in the teachings of Native people, and drawing from the wisdom they provide, because their world view and practices of Circle resonate with Restorative Justice – then we cannot over look that Circles are present and part of spiritual practice.  The attention to who we are mind, body, heart and soul is complete with Celebration Circles.

PP: I don’t do enough of these.  This is the follow-up Circle, meeting 90 days later, or meeting to support change.  When I have done these, the impact is really powerful.  I once learned that a Circle, helped resolve Trichotilomania (I would link to that post, can’t find it at the moment).  Schools have lots of opporunity for this and I really encourage the re-enforcing of prosocial behavior and values related to behaving the same, when you are in and out of Circle.  Celebration Circles help us remember to do this.

By mastering the skills and techniques in each of the different categories of Circle, it will enhance you as an individual keeper, your agency or  school-based program will be stronger.  People are unique, our responses to incidents are unique, however deep down we are all the same, connected to humanity and yearning for those connections and the experience of a sense of belonging.

Be Authentic, it builds relationships and we need relationships.

Every morning at 5 am, I get a  Note to Inspire.

A recent message

You are authentic when everything you say and everything you do you ACTUALLY believe.

I have Simon’s book, Start with Why, I just haven’t got to reading it yet.  The quote today reminded me about going at this Restorative Justice stuff with enthusiasm.  I don’t share anything about it that, I don’t believe.  I am passionate about my first hand experiences.  I share openly about these and I’ve been told I have passion.  It was a gift that people told me this, because, I made a point of remembering that and using that energy again.  So thank you for telling me!

I saw myself quoted in Melinda’s article on Shareable: How to Share in a Dialogue Despite Differences.  I first saw it on Facebook, and knew it would be coming out.  Melinda and I go back a year or so.  We connected over her book, Consequential Strangers.  Which is a great read, and really brings awareness to how people connect.

It was my relationship with Melinda, that evolved into being part of her story.  It was her relationship with me, that helps me with grammar and punctuation.  She authentically shared with me, and it connected us.  We need relationships to evolve, to learn to grow.

I love Maslow’s needs, and I’ve posted a few times regarding the connection to the middle tier – Love and Belonging.  Here is a link with further details.  I was digging around on Maslow, because I was recently told that he used to participate in Native American ceremonies in South Dakota.  I learned that if you extend the lines of his pyramid up, it is actually part of 4 quadrants.  The pyramid is one piece of a symbol, the Lakota way of having “self-actualization” is the center, the first place to go is inside to your self.

Back to the Maslow pyramid, the bottom two deal with self, the next is others.  I see this as a place to get to authentic.

People are wounded when they aren’t provided those two bottom needs.  The history of this can, and often times is carried up to the next tier with others.  Relationships can suffer when we bring our histories.  It’s good to learn from things, to heal, to resolve, to be authentic about your experiences.  To be defensive, unaware, to harm before being harmed, brings issues to our relationships.

We are hard-wired to connect with each other.  I use a quote when I teach Restorative Justice “In relationships we are broken, in relationships we are healed”.  The crack in our heart is where the light is let in.

Be authentic.  Find what that means to you.  For me, it means being real and honest.  It means having the courage to tell the truth, and to believe, really believe what you tell others.  I bet you will find, like I did, it brings relationships and we need relationships.

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.

Final reflections in Circle, the juicy fruit! Relationships juicy fruit, not the gum.

I don’t mean juicy fruit gum, I mean the fruit that you get, because you planted some seeds.  A Circle is an amazing event.  I LOVE the process.  I start it the moment people enter the Restorative Justice Center, “Hi, I’m Kris” with a handshake and a smile.  I get people introduced to any volunteers around me.  We have a plan for name tags, pre-session survey, sitting in Circle and a video playing while we gather.

I am usually monitoring the seating, getting the community volunteer name tags on seats between the participants, offering a bottle of water.  This is how all Circles at St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice get started, this is the planting of the seeds.

We use the four stages of Circle (frequent posts here), always, always, always use values to center our conversation, commit to how we will relate to one another.  We have questions to speak about ourselves as people, then we move to the Circle topic or have a speaker share.  Reflections and contributions by everyone.  Imagine a plant growing on a time delay camera, or a film fast forwarding.  Lots happens here-zipppppppp, time goes.

Here we are at the end of the Circle, a powerful story has been shared, people have made public commitments about a change of behavior.  It’s the last pass of the talking piece, it’s a final chance to say anything else you need to say to leave in peace.

This is my juicy fruit moment.  This is when I feel the Love, created in Circle.  This is when the transition from who people were, when they walked in, to who they are now, preparing to leave.  Community volunteers reflect that they came to help and feel helped.  A young participant thanks the community volunteers, because they “didn’t HAVE to be here”.  The storyteller is often acknowledged again.  People know deep work has been done.  Sometimes, very little is said in this pass because it has all been said before.  That’s okay too, because then I know what we needed to speak was said.

What makes that fruit so tasty? For me, it’s having people be more, than they expected they would be.  When a person reflects on how much they opened up, and confessed they hadn’t planned to say anything, I smile, and look to the center.  The center is the same in all of us.  We want to belong, we want to connect.  Shaping people around a center and asking them to center themselves to the values creates a pathway to the heart.

These heart connections, connect up and in that strength we find ways to make changes in ourselves.  Our attitudes about whatever brought us to Circle (teen driving, underage drinking, property crime, disorderly conduct) changes.  It changes because we can see that we have changed and others have changed as a result of the Circle.  Change creates change.  Once you have awareness, you can’t become “unaware”.  That’s the part of the experience that holds that juicy fruit!  As a Circle keeper and practitioner, your job is to take that fruit, and hand it off to others, so they plant seeds somewhere else.

Have yourself a piece of Juicy Fruit for the next Circle.  According to this blog, Juicy Fruit was the first package to have a Bar Code!


Restorative Justice Circles create connections, effortlessly.

The feeling at the end of the Circle was explained as having a sense of “did I meet you before”?  I loved that, and I got it right away.  When you meet someone and realize you have shared values, common perspectives and a sense of safety, you feel a bond, a kinship.

Someone I think a lot of, and we think alike, offered “maybe we were Sisters, in a past life”.  I like that explanation as well, it really sums up that maybe our connection is something bigger and beyond the reality we can see, hear and feel right now.

I have to carefully navigate confidentiality here.  Something is in the news lately, and a few years ago, someone in Circle talked about being impacted by that situation.  Everyt ime I hear the news, I think back to this person, because of the shared Circle experience.  I feel more connected to the situation because I heard it from someone directly.  When you see eye ball to eye ball, and you hear right from someone’s mouth, you connect to it, because you witness it.

I believe Circles impact us biologically.  Our brains fire off good chemicals, we relax, our breathing slows down because we feel safe.  Our compassion and caring DNA gets to activate, depending on how much nurturing we had as a child.  The activity of connection, sharing and growing together leaves us different from when we start the process.  The creation of connections are effortless with Circle.

As a keeper of the process, lay the foundation, set the table, be in tune to the overall philosophy and hold it closely.  I planned an agenda, prepared a powerpoint and had a day-long training session ready to go.  A comment about my Circle center “mat” which is a crocheted doily, just came of out.

Image from:

I shared how a neighborhood Circle used a similar item, and someone in the Circle shared that if just one yarn breaks the whole piece will come unraveled.  Our communities should be the same and if we lose just one child, our community is unraveling.  I explained that a placemat for the talking pieces also creates something that shows the reverence for them, demonstrating they are special items.  I went on to add how a Circle Center reminds us to stay centered.

It wasn’t part of the agenda, the only part I had really planned was to do a Circle with the group.  In setting up the Circle I told a story, and stories help us connect to each other.  It was a brief offered opportunity, I didn’t get long winded (well from my perspective anyway), I stuck to the relevant and important facts.  That’s the effortless part.

When you can learn to speak, as if you are in Circle – picking the wise-est words, speaking from the heart, with positive intentions for others, how can people not connect.  Practice Restorative Justice principles and the connections to each other will be effortless.  Effortlessly building connections means people can learn more from each other and open themselves up to the places that need healing.  Someone you never met, can suddenly feel like someone you know.

Restorative Justice Circles powered by the strength of vulerability.

The title of this blog post seems like an oxymoron – vulnerability is not usually associated with strength, at least in the first associations of what is typically considered strong.  The first image that appeared in the Google Image search shows a white, male arm, with a large flexed muscle.  Restorative Justice process is about strength of the heart.

Immage from:

Restorative Justice strength is about showing people that accessing your inner strength and wisdom is human.  The kind of strength vulnerability gives, is the strength earned from growing and healing from tough places, situations, experiences. (harmer/offender)

Sometimes you put yourself in the path and cause the harm.  Sometime life and people around you create circumstances that require you to address your healing.  (harmed/victim)
A key aspect of Restorative Justice work, is the view that people are capable of change.  Restorative Justice framework fosters healing experiences.  The intentions and actions of a Circle-keeper or facilitator need to be consistent in treating everyone fairly, with respect and with the belief that healing is possible.  Here is a link, to an earlier blog, related to creating a healing experience.
Some Circles quickly and effortlessly move to a place of deep sharing.  This is usually related to the first person becoming vulnerable, by sharing with the Circle and opening up.  This vulnerability is picked up and others open up.  When people open up and talk differently to each other that they do in everyday life, magic happens.
Did you know that “fuck you” could be used in a sentence and it would be a compliment?  Neither did I, until a young man was talking about “judging others”.  He was having a strong and connected experience with the Circle.  He used an example from our relationship.
“. . . ya, like when I met Kris, I thought, oh authority figure.  Fuck you.  It turns out your really nice, it’s like you actually care. . .”
I don’t know why, admitting what you thought before – and what you think now isn’t more central to our conversations.  To admit you were wrong is usually seen as that vulnerability.  However, great strength lies in sharing what we have learned with others.
Another big, flexed muscle of strength in Restorative Justice is the power of relating to values.  For some reason, some people have learned that it is NOT okay to trust others.  We have learned that respect must be earned, rather than be deserved.  By creating a safe space, focused on relationship values, you can bring people to a conversation level that reaches our SCVRJP motto:  Change of behavior by a change of heart.  (I also add in Restorative Justice Circle process, a talking piece, open and closing, etc ).  The power in a Circle can leave you feeling like you just had an energy drink – as shared with a recent Circle.  I have heard the reflection that the Circle was like having a really good slumber party.  You can leave changed and leave others changed from a Restorative Justice Circle experience.  Use the strength and leverage of values and connection.