Restoratively engaging survivors, storytellers and community volunteers.

Restorative Justice operates by engagement of Victims-Offenders-Community.  The magic is in the mix of these stakeholders.  I believe the more congruent your program and work with these stakeholders is, the more you are modeling, teaching, coaching and living restoratively.  Using community volunteers beyond facilitators is very important.  The community voice is important to help both the victims and offenders feel supported and to increase their knowledge of how crime impacts the community.  Storytellers in Restorative Justice can be the survivor of crime, the support person of someone harmed, or someone directly impacted.  I have other posts on Restorative Justice Storytelling, here.  This blog post will provide some direct actions you can take to restoratively engage individuals in the work of Restorative Justice services and programs.

1. Live Circle Wisdom.  Value all your relationships, and maintain a place where you yourself are in a good way for your relationship with others.  This might mean self-care or spiritual practices that keep you centered to your best self.  As someone recently said to me, “walk the hot coals of our own lives”.  People decide if their relationship with you is ‘just’, they want to be treated fairly and with respect.  The standard is even higher for those in Restorative Justice, you want to show people how it works, by being that example.

2. Apply the approach constantly.  Utilize the power that Circles create, by applying the outcomes in this image, as the potential for each engagement with someone else.Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circles

 

I was provided some feedback that I didn’t necessarily want to hear, but I needed to hear it and I’m glad that I did.  I see it now, that I could have lived the bullet points in this image.  I try to be mindful of these and do them consistently.

I messed up at a community forum, small groups brainstormed ideas on work of SCVRJP.  One group had identified the importance of people knowing about “forgiveness”.  I reacted, I sighed, whispered to a neighbor, saying “that’s not what restorative justice is really about”.  It wasn’t that I was wrong, but what I did was not necessary, it did not represent the ‘positive way of being’.  I didn’t include space for that person perspective or understanding.  It would have been just fine to let that pass without showing my feelings about it.  I didn’t realize people were watching me like that, until that feedback.  I realized the standard for those promoting this work is important to model.

3. Be an invisible gate-keeper.  All people have gifts and contributions, not all are ready for the intermingle and mix in Circle.  Find ways to include people and give them a role appropriate to their current level of restorative justice.  We once had someone in a volunteer orientation Circle, refuse to share anything about herself since she didn’t yet know everyone else.  A few rounds later, after people had opened up about why they were volunteering, she learned some were giving back after being given a 2nd chance drug court program.  When the talking piece came to her she scolded us saying “I didn’t know I would be with criminals!”  We assigned her data entry, so she could see evaluation form comments.  She also helped with a fundraising event.  I went back and checked in with the “criminals”, a word I avoid, using x-offender or the persons name.  Thankfully, it opened up a discussion about expecting that from community, and that is “a price paid when you break the law”.  I got to affirm the accountability of the person referenced and labeled.

4. Silently Mentor.  Prepare people for the anticipated and unanticipated possibilities in Circle.  We have a reflection round after storytellers.  Sometimes the emotions leave people wanting to escape or avoid those, so they themselves rationalize or minimize harmful behavior.  For example, after hearing from someone who killed someone after driving impaired, a reflection was offered “it’s not your fault, he got in the car with you”.  Coach people to listen with an understanding they don’t have to take everything to heart.  Have your radar on and your listening engaged to make sure everyone, from every angle of the Circle can feel supported.  You can check-in politely with people, offer ways they can reframe their sharing.  One volunteer told those at the Underage Consumption Circle, that “you drank to get drunk, your an alcoholic”, I later checked in, she really believed that.  Her life expereinces were limited and she thought that was the way things were.  I suggested that perhaps she not label others behavior, but speak from an experience of her own.  Strong feelings are welcome, they belong in Circle, people need to be able have healing through feeling, once labeled or judged, the opportunity gets smaller.  She understood the value of not labeling, given the opportunity to expresss and explain herself.

5. Honor preferences.  Listening to what is important and helpful and do things to show volunteers you care.  One volunteer is a smoker, and he has anxiety before sharing his story.  The storytelling isn’t until an hour or more into the Circle.  His pre-speech jitters would usually be to rest with a cigarette, that outlet is not possible, we always start and complete our Circles together.  He likes to chew on small suckers, Dum-Dums to stay calm.  Our candy jar hasn’t been without the little candy, since we learned this.  One of our welcoming office behaviors is to immediately offer a bottle of water or cup of coffee.  A new volunteer says they like tea, so we stock tea.  Another loved a new coffee flavor, so we have that coffee on hand.  The little things make a big difference.  Show people they are respected, that they belong and that they are important to your program and work.

 

In what ways to you honor volunteers or support survivors?

From “teacher” to “keeper”, for successful restorative justice circles.

There has been an amazing increase in school-based Restorative Justice Circles.  All across the United States, schools, districts, teachers and trainers have emerged.  There is an excellent blog at Edutopia, for schools implementing (by Dr Fania Davis).

Years of teaching teachers has provided experiences that if I want to leave skills where I train, I need to make the material relevant, useful, accessible to the students, and especially if I am training teachers.  In a recent webinar by the Zehr Institute, (you can view the webinar on the link), what I have learned was reinforced by those implementing school wide Restorative Practices.  The comments by Dr. Davis shares, about school culture, especially resonated.

One foundational key concept, is the relationship to Circle participants by the Circle Keeper. (click to tweet)

I use this image as a reminder.

shapes
(c)scvrjp

The square represents when people are on different sides.  Assumptions are made about the other “side”.  There is a win-lose, right wrong, above-below based on judgements of those on the opposite or different side.  The triangle represents power, at the very top, 1 person.  At the bottom, many people.  This is the typical structure in a classroom, or in a business or hierarchy.  The Circle, is where people connect to the center.  Spokes to the center, connected to the center, equal dignity and worth of each and every person.  The role of the keeper is to bring the best out, the ‘keeper’ in each person in the Circle.

Training provides tips and techniques for moving into the relationship dynamic of Circle.  Some teachers, will explain the move to students.  Those with deeper connections to relationships and stronger social-emotional skills are naturally able to move to this dynamic.  It takes practice, trust and open-ness to the concepts of Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circles.

Mid-november Circle Forward should be released, and it is my understanding this is part of the book.  I am looking forward to another resource for school-based/community building circles!  Pre-order at Living Justice Press.

Circle Keeping, brain science connections.

St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (SCVRJP) has delivered 1,000’s of Circles and trained 100’s of people in Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle process.  Circles in kindergarten classrooms, museums, prisons, college campus, fire departments, churches and many at the Restorative Justice Center.

As our program demands grown, the need to teach people the art of Circle keeping has grown.  As a non-profit working alongside criminal justice systems, the need to be “evidence-based” is crucial.  Having great outcomes, it is important to maintain the success.  These means teaching others how to do powerful, meaningful, effective Circle keeping.  I have focused on this for years.  The increased demand in training requests, partnered with the requests to do a two-day training in half-a-day has caused me to be analytical in the delivery of quality training, effective skills and targeted strategies for Circle keeping.

At a recent training I shared the technique of contracting or expanding my explanation of Restorative Justice and Circle.  In the very beginning before the opening reading, when starting I suggest doing this.  A training participant asked me more about what I meant.  I explained speaking longer or shorter, and monitoring the emotional climate.  I was asked again what I meant.  I realized I had developed my “feeling” for it.  My intuition had developed from doing Circles so often.  The second nature of Circle keeping is living and expresing the values of Restorative Justice.

Right then in the training session, I started explaining what that meant.  I talked about body posture of others, eye contact, how I was feeling.  What are the clues to “knowing” when we are ready to start Circle.  I used words like: trust, calm, connection.  Today I found what it is by brain science!

A HUGE ah-ha!  In reading Words Can Change your Brain, by Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman, I noted the 12 Strategies of Compassionate Communication and powerful and making a TON of sense in the context of Restorative Justice.  I had to see if I could find a handout for this afternoons training.  It led me to learning the neural resonance also called neural coupling is a speaker-listener brain based connection!  THAT is the element to use when monitoring your Circle for emotional climate!

CompassCommunication

Finding your keepers heart, encouraging the heart of others.

It has been an emotional and powerful season of work.  A group of practitioners met to begin a deeper look at healing not only the incident of harm, but deeper wounds and trauma when additional deeper harm is present.  That means looking at differences in race, power, gender, any status differences between people participating.  Not everyone comes with an understanding of history and how past traumas do impact our present engagements.  Some spaces of open-hearted work for me included:

  • I opened up my work for examination, when I might not have had awareness to negotiate “it wasn’t racist” rejection of the emotional harm caused by behaviors.  I was challenged to hold the space for others that wanted to offer advice.  (this advice was RJ 101, and things I had of course done, but did not relate in the brief time I had to offer). The goal in the end was to find ways we might promote increased ‘restoration’ when working to repair harm.
  • I wept at the feet of a Native Elder, I apologized for the ways my ancestors treated hers.  I expressed my shame, apology and feelings for not deserving to be practice Circle wisdom.  She embraced me, hugged me, told me to keep going, that these things live in my heart.
  • I met a group of Veteran advocates and Veterans where they are home.  I rubbed my chin when they showed me the square table they use for Circle.  I could see that was important and significant to them.  We began the Circle Training, with that table, and then I asked them for permission to move it.  It was a powerful and significant training for Veteran work and Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle process.  I feel blessed it includes that story and demonstration of meeting Veterans and their advocates where they are.

I relate these 3 to demonstrate how to express having a Keepers Heart.  Being a Circle Keeper is trying to live and model the values and principles of Restorative Justice.  I have another list (twice as long) where I might have not carried the values and principles.  Being a Keeper is letting go of control, it is not facilitating a Circle, it is bringing a presence that promotes understanding, empathy, compassion, deep listening and healing.

I am so blessed to work with a wonderful and dynamic group of volunteers.  I have come to believe that our Restorative Justice Center success is based on the engagement of all these volunteers.  I have been watching and looking at them to discover as much as I can, to be able to relate and share with others hoping to create space for Restorative Justice in their own communities.

When we gather as volunteers, it is different, we are not working with those in Circle that have been referred for service.  We are able to discuss our intentions, our techniques, our success and our challenges.  I noticed a common theme . . . working on themselves to be better people.  I heard how Restorative Justice volunteering provides a challenge to be non-judgmental, to express caring and compassion.  It struck me . . . restorative humility . . . the understanding that I am not better than anyone else and by helping others, I can help myself. (click to tweetThose are my words to the concepts.  That is what I will continue to model and promote in others . . . the Keepers Heart is honest, courageous, humble and generous.

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!

 

Circle with diverse members, harmed, harmer and community role models.

What a fortunate place I have, having kept 1,000’s of Circles in a range of contexts.  I’ve also been fortunate to train a few hundred in the process, allowing me to hear stories back on what worked well, and what was a lesson.

It is soo important that Circles have a diverse mix of perspectives.  This takes time, in training youth or community volunteers about the dynamics of participating in Circle.  However, by training others, you yourself will be learning more about the fundamental belief systems that make Circles work.

I believe that Circles are more effective that a victim-offender conference.  For one they include others, this allows for additional perspectives to the harm, and for more perspectives on how to repair it.  Circles that include victim, offender and community are more aligned with core restorative philosophies.

The diversity in a Circle makes is rich in perspectives.  Once we hear other perspectives are minds stretched and a stretched mind never fully returns to the original.  I could also insert heart here.

I was observing a young person across from me.  It was a “disorderly conduct” referral.  She was listening to a story about a domestic violence.  The storyteller remembered a moment in a hospital bed, her brothers wanted to go beat the abuser, and she just wanted it all to stop.  A life changing moment was being shared.  The storyteller spoke of the dedication to not raising her daughters around violence.  I observed a very, very engaged listener across from me.  As she rubbed her very pregnant stomach, I had hope for the unborn child.

Circles without trained participants to hold the values, to role model the process, aren’t spaces for strong personal growth.  As a plant grows strong against a breeze, the community stories lean into the reality of the listener.  If your Circle only contains those that broke rules and an authority, you haven’t moved your paradigm quite far enough.  That model might be a start, however, it is repeating the framework that only addressing the wrongdoing will help.  It might, but if you really want to get to change beyond the incident, and get to change connected to values, use diversity in your Circles.

If you are local or near River Falls, Wisconsin, please come volunteer to learn more.  Monthly volunteer orientation sessions are held and Circle Keeper Training is free to volunteers.

Living the R’s of Restorative Justice Respect, Relationship, Responsibility.

Recently presented at the Red Road Gathering in Vermillion South Dakota.  I did my first presentation using Prezi, you can view it here.

I highlighted the 3 R’s of Restorative Justice in the presentation.  Respect, Responsibility and Relationship.  Like anything when you prepare to teach it, you understand the material differently.  Additionally when you speak at Red Road, you are speaking to people’s hearts.  It is a different type of presentation.  Usually I am speaking to teach Restorative Justice itself or offering education on how to do RJ.  The Red Road Gathering is deeper than that.  You consider your audience in every presentation.  For the Red Road Gathering I considered people attend for the theme, the meaning and to learn more about the human experience of living on the Red Road (Native American Spiritual path of living in connection, sobriety, harmony, well-being).

Respect, Relationship, Responsibility.

Respect is deeper than just not rolling your eyes, or reacting negatively to someone else.  It is holding, really holding that honor and recognition of equal dignity and worth in another human being.  In Restorative Justice we ask people to hold that deep respect, even for those that have caused us pain and harm.  I try to check myself in these concepts.  “Be the message” and “live the prayer”.  Holding respect that means “honoring the dignity and worth” of each and every person (click to tweet). In my presentation I shared we all have the capacity.  I shared stories of teachers, those teachers to me have been the people who have utilized Restorative Justice to repair harm.  This presentation focused on severe crime and violence, so the experience of meeting someone who murdered your loved one, or drove the car that caused the crash that they died in.  I put out the call to honor others even if they have caused that kind of harm in your pathway.  Honor others even if they caused a lesser harm.

Relationship.  This is recognizing the inter-relatedness, the interconnectedness of each and every person.  It is also deeper and more than that.  Relationships mean doing something for others.  Something for someone else.  Doing for someone who in turn it becomes reciprocal, bilateral.  Some relationships are involuntary, often the case with crime.  Maybe the relationship is by choice, however, having violence or harm in the relationship is not.  In Restorative Justice, we ask for people to try to understand each others relationship to the incident.  To explore their own relationship to it.  We ask “how were you impacted”, “what were you thinking”.  This relationship to the incident can and does change over time.  That is growth and healing, when it doesn’t change people are often stuck, bitter, resentful.

When practicing Restorative Justice, you start people on the journey to a different relationship to the harm.  The Victim-Offender Dialogue is not the end point, but a place along the path.  Severe crime is a life-long journey of living with the incident.  When we do less harmful events, we intend for Restorative Justice to change the person for the better.  Deeper connections and relationships to values to promote safer living for self and others.

Responsibility.  This is the commitment to these relationships.  When victims show ‘restorative grace’, by forgiving, honoring, repairing harm, an obligation emerges in the one that caused the harm (click to tweet).  When you get to this point, Restorative Justice faces the challenge of victims not always wanting to engage in the process.  Responsibility means living your life connected to the voice inside of you that does not use words.  Living from a Center that knows right from wrong, kindness from harm, and can overcome any pain or challenge.  If you live from the wounds and jagged edges of your life, you are not honoring your responsibilities.  Even around others who are living from the jagged edges, your job is to be the example, live in a kind way, knowing no act of kindness is ever wasted.

At the same time, I am thinking long about someone I am working with.  I view things differently than this person.  I want to move them along to a place of deeper accountability and responsibility for causing harm.  The very first step in Restorative Justice accountability.  How do I use Respect, Responsibility, Relationship?  I put a little statement on Facebook, I was wondering if I could harm the other person and create “over-accountability”.  Not sure what that means, I made it up.  I drew some wisdom from someone with lived experience.  Sometimes, the system takes away the responsibility for accountability because the system punishes in a way the person being punished doesn’t feel is just or fair.  I know perceived injustice will create a reaction.  I will be revisiting respect, and really try to understand the other person’s perpective and the benefits of that attitude, and then hopefully we can explore and discover how those beliefs impact the relationship to the offense.  Then perhaps we can move to a place of taking more responsibility for the harm, and isn’t that accountability?

 

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.

How key elements of a Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle create more than conversation.

Circles are so simple, yet so complex.  I’ve been told I make it look easy, that ease comes from a deep committment to honor the process and the key elements of Restorative Justice Circles.  Here are a few of the elements and how utilizing them impacts the process, creating a deeper container a richer experience, and has people quickly moving to a place of emotional safety.

The opening/closing.  I have a 3 inch 3 ring binder bursting with poems, readings and even an obituary.  When you introduce this element you are sharing how Circle is different from our every day conversation, that sets a tone.  The reading also provides one voice.  The one reading, is the one speaking, at that time.  People know that when someone is reading to a group, the thing to do is to listen.  The reading creates an opportunity for the group (without knowing it) to do one of the things that makes Circle so successful (speak one at a time).  When you get to a place of “one voice”, it is actually creating a collective energy of ‘one-ness’.  Sound corny, but in that space you are having more than a conversation.  This is a monitoring of the emotional climate (key Keeper skill) and when you have that spot reached, you have a deeper well.

Commitment to the Values.  Crucial.  Absolutely crucial.  This sets the agenda and the tone for how we are going to relate to each other.  Doing the values round as the first round, sets a tone, and the commitment to those values, sets and ground that the Center of the Circle, has a capital C.  It is an easy place to find consensus, to talk about consensus.  The other thing it does is give chance for a one-word or short sentence response.  Quickly moving the Talking Piece around the Circle.  Once every voice is heard, people have a sense of belonging, of value.  They have given a vote on how they are willing to proceed.  If I have a delicate topic or important conversation, I always ask “can I talk to you” or “do you have time right now”.  This is a small but very influential relationship building technique.

Passing the Talking Piece Around the Circle.  I think the Keeper was trying to point out use of the talking piece, when someone was blurting she asked if they needed it, the person said yes.  It started a “popcorn” style, going across the Circle, bouncing around.  Many of us were not in that particular stream of conversation.  From my seat, it felt as if the individuals doing the talking had taken a bit of control of the process.  When the Keeper started to engage the piece going all the way around, it felt more equal.  Equality, sitting equal distance from the Center, equal opportunity with the talking piece.  These physical actions influence our emotions, Spirit and thoughts.

Keeper as model to responses.  I often go first, to show or demonstrate and to set the tone.  Just offering “who wants to start” creates the extroverts going first.  You have lost the chance to influence the emotional content, level or sharing and duration of explanation you are seeking.  Sometimes going last to summarize is important.  By going first you can also restate the question at the end of your sharing.  Helpful for the person to your left or right.  (I go both ways, another blog post).

Relationship Building.  You can’t NOT be in relationship, and relationships are bi-lateral.  Kindness builds a relationship.  I often mention to the person on my left, “you have a big job, you’ll be going first” or I engage in talk that connects.  Asking people safe questions to start and small talk shows you care.  We specifically place volunteers in the Circle as people are starting with the task to do relationship-building.  It means treating people with the utmost non-judgement.  If someone hands you a pen, they are trying to be helpful, take it.  Hand it back later when it is needed.  People can be anxious or nervous, do what you can to be kind, helpful, non-judgemental, supportive.  Be as safe as a Circle, engage values in every way you can. (click to Tweet).

Restorative Justice begins with Judge None.

At St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (SCVRJP), we teach our volunteers, our participants, and our speakers/storytellers as much as we can about core Restorative Justice philosophy and approaches.

We use the Little Books of Restorative Justice and Circle (Zehr & Pranis) found at Goodbooks.  We have powerpoints we ask to be reviewed and a few core handouts.  If your Restorative Justice program is interested, I can share.

One briefly stated concept is Judge None.  This means withhold assumptions, judgements, decisions what you would or would not do.  Judgement leads to blame, and blame is removes you and places focus on the other.  Now what if you are the victim?  We listen deeply and intently to victims.  We honor the feelings, emotion and experiences and we still ask ‘judge none’.  We don’t know the motivation, intention of another.  We can hold our own thoughts, emotion and experience from their actions.  Judge none, really separates the doer from the deed.

It is not easy when you hear of someone’s experience.  Can you imagine dealing with the death of your child and in the name of religion, a people mail the newspaper articles, obituary and conversion material to extended family out-of-state.  Ouch.  Well intended from their point of view, painful to the family.

To blame, minimize, avoid full responsibility is almost the natural reaction to making a mistake.  If you easily go to “oh, I did it, I feel bad, I shouldn’t have” your accountability journey looks like a vacation rather than a journey to understanding, a little suffering creates some deep lessons.  Thank goodness for juvenile justice workers and social workers that walk beside youth helping them along.

Restorative Justice asks community members to step forward and have these discussions.  That can happen along a continuum of pre-diversion – to post confinement (another link).

Judge None, allows us to look at our 3 (Zehr) Relationship, responsibility and respect.  Asking people to have their relationship to the incident, and not judge the other persons relationship to the incident is a matter of judge none.

I just worked with someone who was taking full responsibility for their part.  I asked about that tag line at the end.  I got the full story of all the things someone else had done to contribute to the incident this person was charged, convicted and sentenced for.  In more words and time than permit here, we unpacked those things.  We looked at relationships to the incident.  We went to the first part of Restorative Justice ‘acknowledging you caused harm”.  Our responsibility is fully owned, when we focus on our selves.  In Circle we ask “speak to the Center”.  That models that our responsibilities are our decisions, our actions, our thoughts.

When we are busy doing our best to be our best, we haven’t got time energy or resources for more .  Judge none is a reminder to our own restorative justice living (click to tweet)