Why do people think shame and punishment works?

The great debate about Youth Court has been in front of me again, so I sent the following email to my board.  Hoping they will pass it on.  If you want to see the study I attached to the email, It’s posted in an earlier blog, Here.

The question of Teen Court/Youth Court has come up recently. 
I have attached a recent study – citing the Youth Court lack of researched evidence in regards to comparison groups and the results of one study that did compare – traditional court outcomes were better.
In my opinion the model is not helpful – duplicating the retributive system/formal court system.  When you focus on court “process” you miss the things teens need most – empathy development.  When people are genuine, speaking from the heart – then repairing harm can happen.  When youth are “imitating” adult roles, those being processed in this manner – revert to responding to those roles.  As we know teens rebel to authority.  A defensiveness to not have to face “punishment” weighs heavier on the young mind.  When a safe respectful space is created, in a Circle or Conference process, youth can share exactly what they did, and hear (without fear) what harm they caused.  The focus in on the process in teen court.  With Restorative Justice – the focus is on the outcome – to repair harm.
One teacher shared with me recently – the backlash and conflict that occured between students, over the treatment one youth demonstrated to another in a teen court process.  That wouldn’t happen in RJ, because everyone is real, and consensus is used to develop outcomes.
I had someone else tell me how how the youth judge each other harsher in teen court- – well when did harsh judgements ever help anyone?  If we are looking at sending first offenders to a process, one that is more rehabilitative than retributive should be the choice.
Juvenile matters can be directly referred to SCVRJP – via, schools, police, municipal and circuit court.  If you have any further questions about our services, please contact me.

I hope we can move away from the punitive mindset and to one embracing ‘protective factors’!

Campus Based Restorative Justice

Using Restorative Justice on a College Campus is a growing trend.

An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education went out today.  It was emailed to me, but I couldn’t access it on line, yet.

I’ve networked with a New Hampshire campus group, getting ready to take cases Fall of ’09.  I emailed another campus coordinator out East.

I think a great way to go – from my experiences – take a few cases and teach on campus!

If you are doing college campus or your community includes a campus, let’s network.  I am interested in seeing how we can help each other.

This has been my latest new discovery!  I will share my classroom resouces, syllabus and activities.  Let me know what you are doing and what you would like to do!

Book Review by a fellow RJ practitioner & blogger

Lorenn and I got introduced by a response she had to a post on teen courts.  We have been emailing about writing an article together, and I’ve really enjoyed networking.  The internet, social networks certainly give us great opportunities to share ideas.  I found her book review very helpful, so I asked about posting it here.  The  direct link to her (Lorenn Walkers) Blog Post titled Dreams from the Monster Factory by Sunny Schwartz.  From the blog:

A new book Dreams from the Monster Factory by lawyer Sunny Schwartz with David Boodell has just been published by Simon & Schuster, Inc.  It is a short memoir of Ms. Schwartz’ life and her experience working at the San Francisco jail.

Under the leadership of San Francisco sheriff Michael Hennessey, jail’s director Michael Marcum, Lieutenant Becky Benoit, and Ms. Schwartz, who is the jail’s program director, restorative justice becomes part of the rehabilitation program at the jail.  Resolve to Stop the Violence Project (RSVP) has been evaluated and shown to reduced recidivism significantly more than the alternative (which was basically watching TV all day).

Violence is learned, and the RSVP program gives incarcerated people tools for un-learning it.  It is a public  health approach to this serious problem.

Schwartz’ book provides a moving account of the insanity of our prison system that now imprisons one out of every 100 people in the U.S. and, which can predict with sad certainty that almost 80% of those incarcerated people will be back in prison eventually.  And they will have learned much worse “monster” behavior everytime they are imprisoned.  RSVP is working to stop this crazy cycle.

The stories Schwartz tells touched my heart and had me in tears many times.  Including the story of Ben, a formerly vicious skin head, who beat blacks and Jews.  He willingly accompanies Schwartz to the Temple Sinai in Berkeley, and tells the congregation about the horrible things he did.  As he goes on to share his remorse and his desire to make amends, the people meet him with open hearts instead of more hate and resentment.

Schwartz wisely observes that “stories [can] bind broken people together, and help stitch up their wounds.”   This is an important power of restorative justice.  It allows people a voice to tell their stories and in doing so to heal.  Not only do the people harmed by wrongdoing heal, but the people who committed the bad acts, and the rest of the community too heals.

Schwartz includes the story of how she is able to heal too.  We all need healing.  We all face disappointments and perhaps the biggest one is that as wonderful as life can be, it eventually ends.  All the people we love, and all of us are going to die someday.  We can all use healing on a daily basis.

Schwartz’ book is inspiring.  It is a call for all of us to stand up and take responsibility for stopping the current prison system that endangers all our lives. As restorative justice teaches taking responsibility is a good thing, for individuals and for the whole world…

More on Teen Court

I posted my views on teen court, and heard from a few others.  Today I get a document emailed to me that happens to have a research article on the same topic! 

Click here to see the article:  teen-court-criminological-highlights

If you would like to view the entire issue of Criminological Highlights, click here  crimhighlightsv10n11

I hope this adding media is working.  I will also post these as notes on my facebook account.


Tip of the Week – Dispersed Leadership

I ran into this model/term for the first time – Dispersed Leadership.  I found it here on the IACP International Association for Chiefs of Police.  The Center for Police Leadership adapted the concept and created a model, it even includes a nice building with pillars and the foundation labels.  If you didn’t go to the first link, check that out, scroll to the bottom of that page. 

When I googled the term dispersed leadership, I got 1 million, 220 thousand hits!  WOW, where have I been?  I like to read business books, try to follow those trends.  Dispersed Leadership . . . leaving the Hierarchical models . . . oh.  Go figure.  Domination and Power being left behind by another arena.  Hmmm.

How is this a tip of the week you ask.  Its a tip and a tool.  Its a method of speaking concepts.  Study a little about this dispersed leadership idea.  Or keep reading, I’ll give you updates as I learn more.  When you pull in what is working in different sectors, you reinforce your own credibility.

I’ve developed my skills by seeing Circles everywhere.  Seeing how Restorative Justice applies to and makes sense in other areas.  One of my students grasped this recently.

She shared how the NFL recently highlighted a players experience.  A family member had been killed, he carried a burden and a grief until he met with the person responsible.  She is thinking of the name and I was rushing to a board meeting.  BUT – – she saw that what he did was consistent with concepts learned in class.  Now I hope, a restorative process was used.  People can get called to “meet” but void of a context and purpose – well you might have something that misrepresents Restorative Justice.  Like the Dr. Phil show that named Restorative Justice, but completely disregarded the core values.

Okay its 3:34 am!  I was woke up by T-Mobile at 1:50 am.  I recently changed my plan and they sent a text to let me know my account had been changed.  That led to me reading emails on my blackberry.  That led to a great idea about holding a speakers workshop.  So rather than lie in bed with my head full of thoughts I got up and sent 12 emails.  I did just click over and count.  Now its time for me to disperse my leadership right back to the pillow.

Peace – – Kris

Talking RJ with Schools

  It is great when schools seek me out to help with Restorative Justice implementation and training.  It’s not always the case.  I try to get more involvement from my area schools, so I knock on doors, meet with new principals and try to make the case to bring in RJ.  I’ve got some reflections for those of you who might be trying to do the same thing.

Be careful in your approach – I used to start the discussion about how RJ reduces suspensions and expulsions.  That is one outcome of RJ in schools, but I found individuals dismissing me.  The formal mindset was still in place.  The few student that did get expelled “they deserved it”.  I was asking schools to redefine the entire school culture, for a few students, that caused a great deal of time and trouble.  Not the best approach.  Now I talk about student learning and achievement increasing.  The whole school approach outcomes.  Brenda Morrison’s book Restoring Safe School Communities is an excellent resource.

Rj language to school language – schools can dismiss the notion of victim, offender, community.  So much of the focus on negative behavior happens as a violation of the school rules.  Victims are often (not always) overlooked, and secondary victims, are really seldom identified.  I talk about the American Psychological Association’s study on school discipline:

APA Zero Tolerance, February 2001   Recommendation:

RESOLVED, that the American Bar Association supports the following principles concerning school discipline:


  1. schools should have strong policies against gun possession and be safe places for students to learn and develop;

2.  in cases involving alleged student misbehavior, school officials should exercise sound discretion that is consistent with principles of due process and considers the individual student and the particular circumstances of misconduct; and

3.  alternatives to expulsion or referral for prosecution should be developed that will improve student behavior and school climate without making schools dangerous; and


FURTHER RESOLVED, that the ABA opposes, in principle, “zero tolerance” policies that have a discriminatory effect, or mandate either expulsion or referral of students to juvenile or criminal court, without regard to the circumstances or nature of the offense or the student’s history.

The APA report states that Zero Tolerance does not work!  It recommends using other options and suggests Restorative Justice as one of those.  The three levels of intervention are suggested and finding ways for staff to reconnect alienated youth.

Give examples We were “lucky” in a odd an unfortunate sense.  One of our board members was also an assistant principal.  His house was egged and he and his wife agreed to participate in a Restorative Justice Conference.  It was early on the SCVRJP history that this happened, this board member had to leave our board, but in his role at the school he made several case referrals.  This was the start of our school involvement.  These cases gave me situations to share with other schools.

Now I can list off schools and districts that have worked in Restorative Justice.  I was also with Sally Wolf when she got the call that the Chicago School District decided to leave zero tolerance and move toward Restorative Justice.  I have emailed back and forth with staff in Denver, who were part of that districts move towards RJ.  These are not small school systems! 

I have to talk about MN leading the way, last I heard 32% of their schools were using RJ!  They’ve trained 20,000 people.  Check out Restorative Measures, a pdf developed in ’97 before the power of Circles in Schools was utilized.  Nancy Riestenberg and the MN Dept of Education have some great articles and resources for schools.  Here is one of Nancy’s powerpoints riestenber_restorative-measures.

My friends at the Central Michigan Restorative Justice Initiative have a great video about RJ in schools.  You can read there annual report for data, and I can’t wait to meet them in Toronto at the IIRP International RJ Conference.

If your school is interested in implementing RJ, give me a call and we can talk about steps to take in moving ahead.