Restorative Justice when offenders don’t want community involved.

How a restorative justice practitioner handles challenges in the preparation stage is very important.  One common challenge is those that caused harm, or their parents, push back against community involvement.  Thanks to the Ministry of Justice, Jamaica for this image:restorative-justice-three-parties

My recommendation so to find out where this resistance is from, try to understand the concern and then offer an appropriate response to move forward.  It is very important is to work through these concerns so those participating fully understand what the Restorative Justice goals are.  There are no shortcuts to doing effective restorative justice Tweet: There are no shortcuts to doing effective restorative justice. @krisminer http://ctt.ec/bdjfd+  These tips are designed to give you tools in your preparation for a successful Restorative Justice dialogue, in a conference or circle setting.

Top 3 reasons those that caused harm are resisting community involvement.

1) They think the process is punitive.  The person resisting the community has shame, and doesn’t want to have others judge them.

2)They might be worried about confidentiality.

3)They might not feel in control, or understand the process is voluntary.

Helpful, restorative responses:

  • Make an apology for your failure to explain things correctly.  Be so assured of the health of having community.
  • Re-explain the philosophy and approach.  Assure community is present to hold positive outcomes.  Some anxiety before is a meeting is normal, it’s because it is so important.
  • Be confident in the role of community, it is not an option for them not to be present.  Do this conversationally, not like you are dictating things.
  • If the person is worried that they know your community mentors, assure them that is a good thing!  That is how community works.
  • Validate the choices made to participate.  When a young woman scoffed at me “I’m only doing this do get out of being suspended”, I calmly responded “oh, Ok, you made the right choice.  Why don’t you want to be suspended?”
  • Assure the concerns by explaining how much volunteers are trained in the process, volunteers have signed confidentiality agreements.  Let them know that they are understanding, and are parents themselves, and every single person has made a mistake.  Reiterate the foundation and roots of restorative justice.
  • Tell a story about a time other people had similar concerns and how the session went very well.
  • Be sure to ask them about their resistance, don’t make assumptions.  If they ask you a question about the volunteers, you don’t need to answer, you can ask another question about why they are needing that information.
  • Maintain a respectful discussion and explore their needs, I’ve found the open honest discussion leads to a willingness to participate.

Other important factors are for you to take care of your volunteers . . . respect them as community holding valuable information and need for involvement.  They have been trained and take the time to participate, don’t exclude them because you put the person who caused harm in charge.  You are the facilitator . . . your job is to prepare people, not to have them prepare conditions.  The facilitator is the one with the most information about the way the process works.  Prepare, prepare, prepare.  If you can’t get consent for community, let the participant know you have to think about how to move ahead.  Ask them to also think about it.

Just as you prepare victims to know their needs, you prepare those harmed to know their fears.  Once they are out on the table they can be addressed.  To move forward and try restorative justice without the community is excluding a KEY and CORE practice.

 

Funding for Restorative Justice, 6 tips and suggestions, from a decade old RJ program.

I was recently asked (blog comment) for references on grants for Restorative Justice at both the State and National levels.  I thought others might appreciate the information I could share on obtaining and maintain Restorative Justice funding (it’s not just about the grants).  Funding comes in 3 streams for non-profits, if your Restorative Justice program is not a non-profit, but a program you can still use these tips.  

The 3 ways of income are 1)fee for service/contract 2)grants and 3)donations/public support.   It can be challenging to compete for grant dollars these days, cuts in government funding has created more competition for grants.  Raising credibility so that programs are required and fee for services can be set, takes authentic and genuine relationship building.  It requires understanding systems, and creating RESTORATIVE programs that address community needs.  Challenges in defining and marketing your work need to be overcome in order to get the individual donated dollar.  It is not easy and it takes a great deal of work.  The following tips can help guide your efforts in raising revenue for staff and programs.

The first tip . . . use foundational Restorative Justice approaches in your grant/funding relationships!  That means, respect, relationship and responsibility.  Call the agencies you are looking to apply to.  Be clear in what you intend to do.  Study up, don’t ask for $500,000 from an organization that makes $5,000 grants.  Think from the others point of view.  I’m very passionate about Restorative Justice, and it can be hard to understand rejections.  Make a follow-up call, send a thank you letter for the response and opportunity to apply.  Seems counter-intuitive to your time, yet, it sets you up for role modeling the values of Restorative Justice!  Spend time building relationships, be respectful.

When applying for grants be very clear on what you intend to do, and how you will create the outcomes, the grantor is looking for.  Design your work to the mission and vision of Restorative Justice.  Frame your work as addressing public health issues, and demonstrate outcomes, specific changes your work will provide.  Don’t change or stretch so far you are grasping for cash and not doing REAL restorative justice work.

#2 – set your value and create multiple ways to pay.  You want services to be accessible, and if your program does diversion, you want equity in access.  That means that if a person can’t afford services, you need to create alternate forms of payment.  At SCVRJP we offer community service for payment, and you can attend Circles as part of community service.  We have set fees for service based on choices the offender has in the system.  For example it is $75 to reinstate your drivers license, and our Underage Consumption Class is $60.  Consider all the factors in setting your fees, speak to your partners.  We raised our prices and lost a referral agency, that cost us $10,000!

#3 Give back, I call it “pro bono” or “tithing”  I feel there is a certain amount that SCVRJP should do.  Over the years we have had to narrow down what we can do “pro bono”, so I offer scholarships on a case by case basis, rather than listed on every training sign up form.  We used to have programs that didn’t have a related funding, now all programs are connected to a specific funding stream.  We DO NOT charge victims, and no RJ program should do that, however, we have grants and fundraisers around those aspects of programs!  You create a certain amount of social equity in strong relationships, reaching out to others and yet is is VERY, VERY necessary to live within your means and budget, be mindful of what you ‘give away’.

#4 Don’t go out of your area for $.  Contracts for SCVRJP typically come in the forms of training.  Be cautious when chasing down this funding stream.  I have seen community providers of Restorative Justice go and train at schools, without any experience of School-based Restorative Justice.  It is not just transferrable to teach teachers how to do a victim-offender conference.  It is necessary to work and train on what you have an expertise or understanding of.  Rushing ahead and training on Restorative Justice, regardless of your understanding and experience actually sets implementation back than moving it ahead.  For the greater good of the movement itself, find a credible and be credible in trainings and contracts.  It will help the field itself if contracts are delivered in a way that RESULTS happen.

#5 Budget wisely, use diverse leadership.  SCVRJP has been blessed, we have grown from a budget of $20,000 – – to $180,000.  It takes a great deal of dedicated work.  I literally put in the hours of a small business owner to make it work.  I put in the long hours, but I didn’t do it alone, consultation and support of board members has made SCVRJP successful.  Difficult decisions need to be made, you will be surprised what you can learn to do with less.  We had to cut the snacks, at Circle (yet I know fundamentally you serve food) we also cut our janitor services, and have to take turns cleaning our office.  You share in the responsibility of earning and spending money – from upper level board members to all staff knowing the financial status of your organization.

#6 Be fearless and real.  A few years ago, I told myself, when SCVRJP got into using our “reserve” funds, I was going to look for another job.  That MIGHT have been a full 3 years ago.  At this point I can’t imagine doing anything else, despite SCVRJP not have a specific account of “reserve funds”.  I don’t know what the future holds, I know it might look very different for SCVRJP.  A major funder has put us on notice, we are hopeful to create a new business plan.  I will keep applying the tips i’ve outlined.

If this blog post has been helpful . . . please consider a donation to SCVRJP!

 

Support for responding, reacting or restorative-ing.

St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program utilizes the principles and process of Restorative Justice to address public health issues of impaired driving, underage consumption, controlled substance use, disorderly conduct, and other conflicts/crimes that are referred and appropriate for Restorative Justice.  We’ve developed a strong program utilizing community members, storytelling and Restorative Justice Circles.

RJ – Restorative Justice – is vicitm-centered, in a world of process for offenders.  The discipline, sanction, punishment models are very different, however a source of referrals, and an introduction of a harmful incident to a Restorative process.

Case flow from incident to SCVRJP.  SCVRJP has grown to be a trusted and effective option for many.  For others, the program is not utilized, dismissed or misunderstood.  As the Executive Director, I carry a great deal of passion about the work we do.  I am a true believer in Restorative Justice.  I get to make important decisions on a daily basis about responding or reacting.  I train our volunteers and I seek to live the values of RJ and utilize Respect, Responsibility and Relationship as best I can.

Others might be faced with similiar challenges of feeling undervalued, dismissed or misunderstood.  These may root from the intentional or UNintentional actions of others.  They may root from your own perceptions, expereinces or lenses.  Recent tragic events may trigger your need to do more, say more, right the wrong.  For that, I’d like to share a resource I discovered – LINK.  You’ll find some strategic advice, and a poem that I wanted to share:

You can’t be all things to all people.

You can’t do all things at once.

You can’t do all things equally well.

You can’t do all things better than everyone else.

Your humanity is showing just like everyone else’s.

 

So: You have to find out who you are, and be that.

You have to decide what comes first, and do that.

You have to discover your strengths, and use them.

You have to learn not to compete with others,

Because no one else is in the contest of *being you*.

Then:

You will have learned to accept your own uniqueness.

You will have learned to set priorities and make decisions.

You will have learned to live with your limitations.

You will have learned to give yourself the respect that is due.

And you’ll be a most vital mortal.

 

Dare To Believe:

That you are a wonderful, unique person.

That you are a once-in-all-history event.

That it’s more than a right, it’s your duty, to be who you are.

That life is not a problem to solve, but a gift to cherish.

And you’ll be able to stay one up on what used to get you down.

You can’t be all things to all

Restorative Justice, criminology of self or other, a lesson from the process.

To encourage understanding of our work, and to do what I teach, SCVRJP staff meetings include a reading, a reflection and a check-in.

I teach, that agencies or schools that use Circles or Restorative Justice, should parellel the process within the agency.  That would mean using the restorative concepts as part of agency functioning, elements or, or actual Circles as part of meetings.

At a recent staff meeting, a co-workers shared from a book in the SCVRJP library.  I found it interesting, and appreciated the knowledge and concepts.  It made me appreciate that our agency brings these elements to staff meetings.  You never know when you might just get a new way to consider or understand Restorative Justice.

Book: Restorative justice, self-interest and responsible citizenship. Lode Walgrave

Pages: 192-193

Another spin-off of restorative justice for criminology is that the conceptions of crime, criminals and crime-fighting are stripped of their exceptional character. Mainstream criminology is predominantly what Garland (2001) calls a ‘criminology of the other’. Such criminology considers those who commit offenses as another kind of human, intrinsically different from law-abiding citizens; it focuses on particular risk groups, such as immigrants, drug users or youths in deprived neighborhoods, which it presents as threats to the existing social order. The criminology of the other aims to produce theoretical, empirical and practical knowledge that will allow better control of risk groups or render them less harmful for the average citizen. In doing so, this criminology delivers expertise that further excludes and controls the poor and marginalized; it becomes a technology of social exclusion and thus significantly advances dualisation in society.

‘Criminology of the self’ (Garland 2001), on the contrary, considers those who commit crime as normal people. The person who offends is one of us, someone who, because of circumstances, has ended up in a position that caused him to act illegally and to harm others. It could have happened to any citizen. But criminology of the self can ‘normalise’ the criminal in two different ways. It can bring the level down, by regarding all humans as potential criminals. The consequence of such approach is that we all live in mutual distrust to protect ourselves against one another through, for example, situational prevention strategies based on rational choice theories (Felson 1994). In Putnam’s terms, social capital is then drastically degraded, which, as I have described briefly, is disastrous for the quality of social life and for democracy.

A restorative process offering the offender the opportunity to make up the harm caused may be a major help in the offender’s quest for rehabilitation. Basically restorative justice has this normalising approach to all those involved in the aftermath of crime and looks at both the victim and offender as normal, reasonably responsible persons. It presupposes that, in the right conditions, both victim and offender will be prepared to try and find a solution that is acceptable to all parties, including the interests of the larger community and public safety. As seen in previous chapters, this trust is not naïve, but is sufficiently supported by experience and empirical data to justify it as the starting point in considering what should and can be done once an offense occurs.

Felson, M. (1994) Crime and Everyday Life. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.

Garland, D. (2001) The Culture of Control. Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press

 

 

Remembering what is important, science vs storytelling OR consilience.

I recently forgot what was important.  Values are important to me.  I take advisement from research (or as Capella would have it, I am a critical thinker).  I try to live my life in balance, in positive relationships.  I get lessons once in awhile.  The lesson today – science and storytelling.

Here is a post about a book Deep Brain Learning, where I learned the term Consilience.

Most nonprofit work and especially Restorative Justice depends on the social value created.  We know the fabric of community changes when we do things that promote the good of people.

Check out this great story on a celebration in Yellow Medicine County.  The story, explains the program beyond dollars and numbers.

In my reading for school, Integrating Mission and Strategy for Nonprofit Organizations, social value was defined as things that are: spiritual, moral, societal, aethetic, intellectual and enviornmental.  Nonprofits promote mission for the social value created.  The author adds that social value TRANSCENDS economic value.  Our mission statements are the fuel providing psychological energy (Phills, 2005).  You can’t measure that kind of energy and for each person it can change over time.  My relationships to those social values has gotten deeper with more and more Restorative Justice expereinces.  I have gotten to know, to really know how these things work.  Stats are great, the power of the story is even better.

So I know this.  In my head and in my heart.  There is science (outcomes, stats, concrete things) and there is story (values, feelings, knowing).   This knowing doesn’t prevent me from being overly attached to a number.  The number is just over 115,000.  That’s the number of site visits to my blog, Circlespace.  I have recently moved from a long web address that includes wordpress, to a nice short web address of www.circle-space.dev.

Right now, the site stats have not transfered.  Last I checked, only 232 site visits on the new site.  I am not taking this well.  I found myself urgently explaining to my web contractor how I want to be blogging for Time and Newsweek and 200,000 is so much better than 200.  I caught myself, because I felt anxiety as I was telling her this.  I never started this blog to be blogging for Time or Newsweek.  I started this blog to help people with Restorative Justice, especially Circles.  I recognized my anxiety as a drift from my priorities.

The wonderful calm, technology person, pointed out my content transfered.  I realized things could be worse.  All 607 posts are available at www.circle-space.dev.  We are working on the subscriptions moving and potentially the statistic rank.  My lesson, for me, the one I am sharing here, is to remember there are many influences.  We need to remember our original intentions, not to get caught up in a number.

Consilience – the merging of knowings.  Using research, practice and values, overlap those Circles, and in the middle is truth.

The truth is, I get to think outloud emotionally and intelectually with the blog.  One of my favorite bloggers, Penelope Trunk, pointed this out in a recent blog bootcamp.  The ranking being 1 million or 10 doesn’t matter, if the benefit is my sense of helping, my social value OR the social value for one person, then this blog has purpose.  The story of this blog, as I have experienced it, is that it helps.  The story of this blog, is that it gets shared. I’ve been told it does provide value.

I value social value.  I found myself getting an attachment to a numeric value.  Blogging is a great way to clarify your values, I just literally told everyone about my journey.  I took a trip, I tripped up what I know, I attached to something different a number vs a value.

I’m telling you, to help you remember consilience – the merging of your knowing.  Find your truth in the center of research, practice and values.

 

Seeking community support, the summer fundraiser for SCVRJP

This years annual Walk_flyer_2011 is scheduled for July 30, 2011.  As I prepared the materials I came across the photo of the tulips.  In a free template from Microsoft, I saw a representation of peace and connection.  The Walk for Awareness brings people who have lost a loved one into a community of support.

Additionally the Walk provides a reminder that life is fragile and it is important to remember not to drive impaired, distracted, or unbuckled.  To remember those who lost hope and completed suicide raises awareness that supporting others is all of our responsibility.

Non-profits are required to gather community support as demonstrated by financial contributions.  Every dollar donated helps.  As SCVRJP launched a 10x10x10 campaign, we have been blessed to see checks in our mailbox and notices from JUSTGIVE, that another donation has been made.

Now as summer approaches we are asking our community to again, step up and help SCVRJP.  Next week, the board of directors is sending this Appeal Letter.

The hope is that businesses and individuals will support SCVRJP.  The sponsorship opportunities are highlighted here: Sponsorship 2011.

Your business, club, agency can also engage and raise funds as a team, gathering pledges together or individually: Pledge Form 2011.

We hope to see you at the Walk on July 30, be sure to get your tickets to the event by July 22nd!  Thank you again for supporting the mission to build and sustain a culture of peace and belonging utilizing restorative justice principles and programs in our community!

Restorative Justice blog advice, 6 tips for the practitioner or advocate.

I have been blogging for just over 2 years.  I started in September of 2008.  Right now the blog views are just over 81,000.  One of my blog role models, Penelope Trunk, has 60,000 subscribers to her blog (I have a handful, maybe two).   I also author two other blogs, and guest post whenever I can.

However, this project to be the first and most frequent Restorative Justice blogger, is working out really well.  My goal is to help others, and celebrate the rewards of being a blogger.  The post today offers some thoughts and advice on for those new to blogging.

1) write in your voice.  Try to write like you are telling someone the story.  I am often rehearsing what I am writing in my head, as if it is being said outloud.  The point of blogging is that relationship and using your own tone, builds that.  People what to relate to who you are.

2.)expand yourself.  Reach when you post, share your perspective, in a non-judgemental way.  Claim it as your opinion or experience.  I’ve posted things and had “bloggers remorse”.  Yet that nervousness has helped me understand my own boundaries and how I want my voice to be heard.

3.) have thick skin and an open mind.  Be ready for any type of feedback.  I shared a comment once and asked for some mentoring around it.  It was acknowledged as a “slap on the face”, yet I was complimented for reaping the learning from it.  It taught me if I could do that in a computer world, maybe I could work on it in real life.  I needed both thick skin and the open-ness to see and feel the lesson.  The same neutrality that helps Restorative Justice practitioners, helps when you blog.  Be aware of your bias, personal beliefs and perspectives.  Deliver your expressions openly, with that most important Restorative Justice value: respect.

4.)set your style.  Decide up front, what type of posts you want to be doing 500 words, 140 words.  Think about how much time you want people to spend on your blog.  Take time to set up the blog, pick out the widgets, backdrop, font with your style in mind.  You will be glad you have some parameters and goals.  Remember your theme or intention for blogging and relate your posts to that.  For Restorative Justice practitioners and advocates, you need to learn to tell the story without violating confidentiality and upholding the mission and vision of Restorative Justice.

5.)use your draft folder.  Ever get mad, send the email or letter before you should have?  Blogging for me is an emotional expression, when I feel passionate about something I can have a tendency to process that in my blog.  It has worked for me, in that I get positive feedback about some of the more personal posts.  I have also learned to put things in my draft folder, for later review.  Some posts never get published, yet I leave them as a reminder of what I was experiencing at a certain point in time.

6.)Relationship.  Restorative Justice is all about our relationships.  Think about the relationship to your blog, blog readers and self as a blogger.  This perspective will help you in your writing and development.  I think my skills at expressing myself have improved, as I wrote out my ideas and stories.  Be aware you are growing and developing relationships at every step of the way.  I have connected with many wonderful people as a result of this blog.

Good luck to you in blogging and restorative justice!

Restorative Justice Circles provide a feeling of importance.

Do you like to feel like you are important?  Gosh I do and I like to provide that to other people as well.  Not the important as in arrogance, but feeling important like you matter and make a difference.

A recent Circle “newbie” described that the Circle made her feel important.  It was a Circle of many new people to the process, an adult or two and a mixture of high school and middle school students.

One of the teachings I highlight in Circle training is “unexpected enlightenment” meaning being open to others stories, thoughts and experiences as a way to our own personal growing and learning as people.  I am always trying to be open.  If you catch a lesson in your net you can pass it along to others.

I am passing along how valuable Circles are in making people feel important.  Circles give everyone equal value and equal opportunity to share.  Circles give equal contribution options, equal distance from the Center and from each other.  The stage is set for everything the Circle does to be important, as it engages all of us.

Victims and bystanders feel important because they are given a space and platform to speak.  Restorative Justice focuses on the impact.  You are important because how you were impacted is relevant.  Speaking about how you are impacted gives the opportunity to put the experience outside of you and inside a Circle of people listening and witnessing.

Contribution feels important.  If I am not asked for my voice, I don’t even think of it as being important.  Everyone gets asked in Circle.  I also align and inform people at the beginning, speak to the Center, use your wise words (not to insult or put down others) and speak from the heart.  So many times repeating what we think others want to hear or saying the answer that will not cause problems comes to mind.  Just recently I was thinking of what to say, and was going to ask if people wanted the honest response or the one that would keep the meeting going smoothly.

Back to my Circle “newbie” and Circles with middle school students.  Gosh do they ever need to feel important.  Like is in such transition.  I must admit, as it got closer and closer to the presentation of 80 middle school students, I began to worry.  I was shocked at how well-behaved they were in general.  Additionally, I was equally impressed and happy to experience the adultness of their Circle behavior.  They really took to it and respected the values, respected each other and opened up when given the opportunity.

It was one of my spontaneous moves, to be asked for a Circle demonstration and say “YES!”.  We got plates from the kitchen for the values, my coworker and I both got talking pieces from our purses.  One student leader had her Circle training manual from our session 10 months ago, used an opening reading from that!  We did a fish bowl, and 70 students stood around the dozen of us in Circle.  It was a career snapshot moment! 

A simple reflection at the end of Circle from a student involved . . . “the Circle made me feel important”.  Wa-la and that is the power of Circle!

Remembering our roots, gaining perspective.

I have been the non-profit executive director of the St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program, SCVRJP since 2005.  Prior to that, I was the board vice-chair, I was one of the first board members, I attended the first official board meeting.  I still have the letter, agenda and minutes.

SCVRJP is facing a financial transistion.

What that means is that a 3 year $135,000.00 grant has been fully distributed to us.  We have to wait one year from depositing that last check to ask again.  It was planned that over that 3 year period, SCVRJP would become self-sustaining, that we would develop revenue and income from our programs and services.  The fact we are a non-profit, makes it evident, we reach out and fill a need in our community.  Non-profits don’t operate with huge profits, SCVRJP was no different.

In making a go of it, we secured office space, added staff, added programs, added fundraisers and yet our budget did not balance.  We did more that what we could technically “afford” to do.  Our bank balances supported moving ahead and offering the much needed, much respected and unique service to our community.  Until now.

Now I am looking at how to streamline costs, who we might share occupancy with, how we might bridge a gap and not use up our reserve funds.  I am afraid, worried, concerned.  If I catastrophize I get to the end of the story as unemployed and homeless.

Then I remember a board meeting.  It was 2004, a letter to a foundation had resulted in $20,000.00.  The board was discussing hiring a staff person for the new non-profit, at the time called Pierce County Restorative Justice.  All board members were eager, willing, agreed.  My thought was negative.  Our bank balance way less than half of this new grant.  It occured to me to say “why hire someone, 6 months from now, we won’t have the funds to pay them”.  I didn’t voice that opinion, we hired a part-time coordinator, after 9 months, I took over that position.

SCVRJP started by serving 35 people in 2003.  We are going to serve just over 4,000 in 2010. 

Our annual budget grew from under $40,000 to just over $160,000. 

I thought it was impossible in 2004.  It might seem impossible for 2011.

SCVRJP recieved a 3 year grant for $135,000 and the last distribution was in May.  Our revenues are slightly less than anticipated and fundraising hasn’t brought it as much as expected.  The financial future looks impossible.

I am familiar with impossible because, Restorative Justice is full of things that seem impossible.  Victims seek healing by meeting with offenders, even in loss of life situations.  Offenders pay back their community by sharing their life story, even if it includes driving drunk and killing a friend.  Students who had so much conflict, expulsion was on the horizon, experience a Circle, reconcile and become friends.  I’ve witnessed people change before my very eyes and they are softened by the experience of being heard and listening.  Teens and parents address core issues in a Circle and tell us they will forever remember the experience.  I never would have guessed a middle school in Washington DC would be doing Circles because SCVRJP offers training.

Just like the brief and fleeting negativity I had in 2004, I have to have brief and fleeting fears about 2011.  I know how to make the impossible happen.  My focus is on fundraising and sustainability for SCVRJP, and someday I can look back and remember this negativity and see that the impossible was exactly what happened.

You can donate to SCVRJP at JUSTGIVE.

Restorative Justice and lessons from Bikram Yoga, skill practice for both.

I have taken two Bikram Yoga classes in Fort Collins, Colorado.  As I have gotten back into this process, I have a few comparisons to restorative justice.  Change, 100% effort and working on the edge.

Change.  When you are in the steaming heat holding one of the 26 postures, stretching your body as you can, then you hear the teacher say “change”, it is such a relief.  I did another post here on it.  As a split second response to change occurs, I thought of how quickly people’s hearts change in restorative justice.  The hearing of another’s story really does change a person.

100%.  In Bikram, in between floor poses, we do a pose called savasana, or dead man’s pose.  You lay on the floor and relax.  It is a posture, and as last nights teacher said, when your mind has left the room, your body has left the posture.  The teacher before would remind us, 100% relaxation.  In these times of focus on not focusing, I associated it with other life experiences.  Circle listening, or “story-listening” happens like this.  In 100%.

The edge.  Some of the savasana happens on your stomach, head to the side.  I always try to find a focal point.  Then I try to find a tiny edge of the focal point.  A spot on the ceiling, then the edge of the spot.  Or the corner of my neighbors yoga mat, the very, very corner.  Then, while usually fighting the response to pass out or puke, I start to have a mind wander.  Most recently as I was considering why I love to look at the very edge between two things, it reminded me of (what else, shocker here) Restorative Justice.

There is a huge difference between the victim and the offender.  Yet the edge between the two is often closer than it might appear.  Victims have said of the offender, he was a regular guy, just like me.  This was of the offender who drove drunk, ran over the probation officer, who had stopped to help another car along the highway.  The victim, now left without a left arm spoke at a conference and advocates for other amputee’s.

The crime “trauma” bond should not be ignored.  Often it is an involuntary relationship between two people, formed because of the incident of harm.  Responding and working with trauma is its own speciality, walking the edge, for both victim and offender to repair harm or heal trauma take a special skill set.

Are you a restorative justice specialist or practitioner?  Are you working on skill-sets needed for Restorative Justice in real life?