Restorative Justice Circles talking or transformation, using key elements for change.

St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (www.scvrjp.org) has been doing 100’s of Circles a year, since 2006.  In that time we have successfully placed topics in the center of the Circle.  We have consistently used a structure, based on the work of Kay Pranis (more posts referencing Kay).  The key elements of a Restorative Justice Circles, have been featured in two books by Kay, the Little Book of Circle Process and Peacemaking Circles from Crime to Community.

These Circle experience spans school settings, severe crime and significant loss, to staff meetings structured with Circle and our many Circles held to address public health issues in our community.  Highlighted in this post, are the rationale and reasons for using the key elements.  Talking Circles provide connection and potential to repair harm.  To transform the way people see themselves and others in connection to community and to transform behavior instantly, try the Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle Elements, as described here.

A few of the commonly skipped or overlooked Key Elements:  Consensus to Values, 4 Stages.  A Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle is more than just using a talking piece.

Consensus to Values This aspect of Circle is more than just having people write on a paper plate.  This aspect is also designed to pull people together in a community that has decided how they will relate to each other.  The first steps of “community” if not geography, would be common interests.  A specific pass of the talking piece asking people to reflect on the values in the center, as part of the way of being together, deepens the connection before exploring topics, facing challenges or repairing harm.

4 Stages  (I am assuming you know these, there are many posts here highlighting) When we take time to do some questions, before the deeper conversation, or intention of the Circle, we are reminding people that we can make important connections by caring and learning about each other.  The simple content provides a context for common likes, it builds connection.  Some of my favorites lately have been to ask people about the next big accomplishment.  Fun results when I asked another training group to share 3 things about their shoes.

The final part when using the 4 stages, is to give opportunity for people in the Circle to identify their “take aways” or reflections on the experience.  This serves for people to identify quickly and immediately the benefit of the experience.  Like speaking to the Center in Circle promotes self – agency, so does speaking to your experience at the end of the Circle.  The use of the last phase helps us know we did good work together, it is another opportunity to allow people to share from the wise-centered part of who they are.  When doing Circles around trauma or emotionally heavy topics, it allows people to  prepare for returning to the un-structured everyday communication styles.

When you do more in Circle, than just employe a talking piece, you are creating space for safety.  Safety promotes vulnerability, vulnerability becomes a responsibility (tweet me) and a responsible keeper uses that for the greater good of  all in Circle.  Using the stages show respect and places the power, in each person and the Center of the Circle.

Key Elements Restorative Justice Circle

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).

Doing Restorative Justice with the core concept of WITH.

From IIRP:

people are happier . . . and more likely to make positive changes when those in authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them . . .

I have been so fortunate.  To get to do Restorative Justice as a full-time job, provides so many opportunities.  I’m the executive director, and I provide a great deal of direct service.  I’ve been in prisons, classrooms, churches, community centers, people’s homes, coffee shops, parking lots and had thousands of conversations about repairing harm, restoring connections and building community.  If the ask is to do a Circle, my answer is always yes.  I do Restorative Justice Victim-Offender Dialogue, Restorative Justice Circles, offer trainings and workshops.  From the seemingly silly to the most serious of offenses, I’ve been offering and facilitating Restorative Justice full-time for 8 years now.

I over commit stretch myself thin, and work long hours.  That has forced me to grow in areas and at the same time, taught me how to get this work done effectively and efficiently.  I lead with my heart.  You have to, if you’re doing Restorative Justice work, you have to use your heart when connecting with people working WITH them for Restorative Justice.

The quote above uses the phrase “when those in authority” the first thing I do is to erase any authority, I try to approach people human to human, heart to heart.  This means being accepting, understanding, compassionate.  The very language used can contribute greatly to equal dignity and worth. WITH as a human being, is much for effective that WITH as my job.

Imagine you love hot fudge sundae’s, and your hungry at the moment.  What if someone tells you, you will be forced to eat one. Probably doesn’t feel very good, despite the fact you like sundae’s and one would taste good.  I overheard this “the talking piece forces you to listen”.  I would say, Circle provides the opportunity to listen without interruption.  Very few like to be forced to do anything.  The speaker meant well in explaining Circle like this, the mark was missed in explaining how to listen with another.

I try not to use words that imply power over or authority.  I don’t use the word “rules” and I even avoid “guidelines”, I really explain the behavior that works best.  I “invite”, “offer”, “provide”, working to align with the core inner part of individuals.

Staying with curiosity is also a great place to be with, to explore and expand people preparing to come together in Restorative Justice dialogue.  A very angry approach is sometimes the starting point, the victim might want and demand the offender do or be a certain way.  This can be tricky, the facilitator has no control over this.  Some victims see what they have already decided to see, or what they experienced in the court process.  It takes listening and exploring to prepare.  For example when a victim wants a topic in the dialogue that moves more towards blaming, shaming and is less about healing, a facilitators best move is to go with the victim.  This means respectful questions and inquiry to find the need the victim is trying to respond to.  Finding the inner need, and exploring ways it can be met, in the dialogue, by the victim is preparation work WITH a victim.  This exploring and curiosity can also bring pathways in the brain about how it might be when the dialogue happens, what might happen.

A survivor recently realized, that if she saw remorse, she would probably hug the other person and share “this is something we will all have to get through, together”.  I almost choked up hearing this, she almost cried saying it.  That statement was the best “WITH” a facilitator could hope for between and victim and offender.

Restorative Justice and the powerful web of interconnectedness.

I just opened a gift from a Restorative Justice volunteer.  SCVRJP has a new wall hanging.  peace-flag-string-mini

It was less than a week ago SCVRJP gifted (gave away) a wall hanging.

Interconnectedness of giving and receiving.

Restorative Justice includes and survives by this web of interconnectedness, where we offer and accept with grace.  The community creates spaces for SCVRJP to share, like last nights invitation to share with a large group of youth and their mentors.  SCVRJP couldn’t exist without the support of our volunteer speakers.  Sharing stories and experiences are crucial to helping others understand.  The wisdom of the lived experience is lost if it is not heard.  Speakers sharing their stories, is empowering and healing.

Seeking a new speaker supported by a seasoned speaker warmed my heart.  It reminded me of our web and interconnections.  Our new speaker was nervous, the audience was going to be larger than she expected.  I noticed our other volunteer had a slight smile.  He’s been speaking for 5 or 6 years.  I think his smile was from connecting to how she felt.  He told her not to worry, the audience didn’t know what she was supposed to say, so they wouldn’t know if she made a mistake.

It has always been there inside of me.  I just think people can get up in front of an audience and speak from the heart.  It created a problem for me in high school.  Our youth group was snowed in on a ski trip.  I took the lead on setting up some activities and assigned my best friend a speaking part.  She got really upset and yelled at me, “not everyone is like you”!  We came to laugh about that as we mended our friendship later.  Thank goodness that didn’t stop me from being convinced that people can share their stories.

Our experienced speaker shared with the audience, that he doesn’t like speaking.  He feels anxious before it happens, but the feeling after is helpful.  Our new speaker was excited and was going out for a celebration pizza after the event.  It isn’t for everyone to take on public speaking and sharing.  I have yet to meet the person totally confident about doing this.

The connectedness comes that speakers take the pain of the experience and the fear of speaking and then they plow right through it.  They reach the other side, by a drive to help just one other person.  They speak of trauma after tragic loss, caused by them or caused by others.  They swallow back tears to keep sharing.  They tell their stories from a place of heart.  The courage, strength and resilience they demonstrate touches the audience.  You can feel it in the room, (even when not in Circle).  Last night a group of 100 teens in quiet listening, respectful space gave our speakers the gift of listening.  Our speakers offered their gifts of sharing.

When if feels right, we close out SCVRJP events with the offer of a handshake, high-five or hug.  The audience came up and passed down our line, offering handshakes, hugs and comments.  Many said thanks, a few offered reflections on hearing the stories.  It felt great to see our speakers supported.  I’m a little overwhelmed typing this blog post!

As we left, our new speaker said the handshakes was something she had never experienced before.  Her smile was 1,000 watts bright.  She shared it reminded her of a sporting event where teams shake hands after the game.  At first I didn’t get that, then I thought of how two sides, previously in competition take on that gesture to make peace after the game.  This morning I opened the gift, prayer flags that say PEACE.

peace-flag-string-mini

 

The work to move life forward when others have passed, the power of healing.

A recent Facebook status:

The journey from survivor to thrivor takes courage.  I followed her into the coffee shop and saw the tattoo with names of the deceased across her back.  Three relatives died in that traffic crash 4 years ago, after 9 months of meetings and prep work, she will soon be meeting the driver of the other vehicle involved.  It is powerful work, what some do to heal.

Restorative Justice is grounded in 3’s – Victim/Offender/Community.  Howard Zehr’s 3 pillars: Harms & Needs, Obligations, Engagement.  (Four Words!).  The SCVRJP logo has 3 swirls, with the 4th the white background, the 4 colors of the Lakota Medicine Wheel.

I believe we have a 4th in those we address and engage in Restorative Justice.  Victim-Offender-Community and Collective.  Four sections of the Circle.  Four stages of Circle process, 4 words in the 3 pillars of Restorative Justice.

“Collective”  is bigger and broader than community.  When I think of engaging “community” in Restorative Justice I am asking my law enforcement officers, school staff, citizens, bystanders and others connected to the specific incident.  When we do preventative work, our audience becomes the community.  For example a Teen Driving Circle in a Drivers education classroom, creates a community listening to an offender or victim.  Collective is those impacted further and beyond the immediate community.  Teens go home and tell parents about the powerful story heard. I remember when my daughter was in high school, she was a football cheerleader so I attended football games. After the Restorative Justice work at the school, several parents came to me with questions because their children talked about the Restorative Justice experience.

The ripple of Restorative Justice work goes far and wide, I believe it has impact on the universal human collective.  By addressing Mental, Physical, Emotional and Spiritual aspects Restorative Justice must reach beyond, and that ‘Spiritual’ aspect would be the collective.  When you do loss of life work, you speak about the survivors views on the after life.  You talk about what the deceased would want the living to be doing.  Deceased are usually viewed as spirits or angels, you accept what that survivor defines – and usually the view from heaven, that higher perspective is a spiritual one.  In a spiritual view of things, values always emerge.  Love, forgiveness, compassion, etc, etc. by creating the energy of these things, Restorative Justice impacts the collective.

The collective impact, when people heal from tragedy can be felt.  The two women that will be doing a Victim-Offender dialogue, are exploring what speaking together might look like.  The offender has been speaking about her experience of distracted driving.  The consequences and the lesson is being shared with others to prevent a similar harm.  If/when these two begin to speak together, they will not only have the story of the crash, they will have the story of their journey of Restorative Justice.

I often say, “when we share accessing our own inner strength and wisdom, we help others do the same”.  To access your inner strength and wisdom.  Restorative Justice is the process and the venue for people to access and put this strength and wisdom to use.  Some people need the connection to the other person most connected to the incident.  That is why some victims request Restorative Justice in loss of life incidents.

Can you imagine the courage it would take to meet with the person driving the car that caused a crash that killed 3 of your relatives?  Most people initially hearing the thought of loved ones killed, think about revenge or retaliation.  Those two “R”‘s are phases people go through and some stay there.  Others move to the “r” of restoration, and that is where healing and moving life forward happens.

I’ve had the unique opportunity to accompany a number of people, seeking Restorative Justice after loss of life.  Each person leaves me changed.  Each case influences the next, because I have a broader, deeper understanding of the pain and suffering from losing a loved one suddenly.  Each person is unique and they are treated as such and with the utmost respect.  It keeps me humble and grounded to recognize and realize this work is not just for the victim, the offender and the community.  This work is for the collective.  Mankind can do better and be better when we seek to heal with each other.

 

Restorative Response – supporting survivors of sudden, tragic loss.

Restorative Response    for those impacted by sudden & suicide death.

Providing support to survivors and their families.

Restorative Response Resources 

Guide for Grieving Families – The guide is a booklet for new survivors, created for use immediately following a tragic event.  Provided to local law enforcement and first responders .

Survivor Outreach – trained local volunteers are available to meet with families on request offering listening, compassion and understanding.  Volunteers provide a connection to someone who has survived a similar experience.  Volunteers provide resources, reassurance and hope.

Monthly Support Group – Offering a safe space for sharing, support and understanding.  For past, future & potential members of the Restorative Response Circle series.

Talking Circles – Provided quarterly in sessions of 6 weeks of Circles.  Survivor outreach volunteers provide space for uninterrupted listening, storytelling and a pathway to healing.

Presentations/workshops/circles – SCVRJP will facilitate Circles or provide training & information on trauma, survivors, healing responses and providing support.

Healing after loss can be assisted by connecting with others.  Restorative Response services are tools to making coping easier.  To make a referral, request services or to join our volunteer outreach program, contact Kris Miner.

 

Upcoming Events

  • Monthly Support Group – July 19, August 16, September 20
  • Restorative Response Circle Series – 6-8 pm
    • October 4 – November 8          April 18 – May 23 2013
    • Restorative Response Volunteer Trainings:  July 31 6-8 pm, August 16 4-6 pm
    • Walk-for-Awareness – July 28 – remembering loved ones
    • Pre-registration requested.  Contact 714-425-1100 or scvrjp@gmail.com for more information.

 

Restorative Response is a program of the St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (SCVRJP).  SCVRJP has been serving victims of traffic fatalities since 2003, when Victim Impact Panels were established for Pierce & St. Croix Counties.  As a volunteer for Dakota County, Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Corrections, SCVRJP Director Kris Miner facilitates Restorative Justice for homicide and traffic fatalities.  These experiences combined with a community need to support those impacted by suicide led to the Restorative Response program.

In 2010, SCVRJP began hosting Talking Circles for survivors of suicide.  The program evolved to help others from sudden and tragic loss.  The program includes monthly support groups, survivor outreach, training and a guide for grieving families.

SCVRJP is seeking volunteers specifically to the Restorative Response program.  Training will be provided on working with survivors, responding restoratively and with compassion.  Volunteers will be asked to be available for Circles, support group and the individual outreach aspects.  If you have survived the loss of a child or a loved one, due to suicide, homicide or traffic crash, please consider becoming part of the team to help others.  If your loss was more recent, SCVRJP encourages participation in a session or setting up a meeting to see if the services could benefit you or your family.

For additional question, please contact Kris Miner.  Volunteer applications are available on the SCVRJP website www.scvrjp.org.

One picture . . . a thousand words. One tear . . . . a million emotions.

The loss of a loved one is an incredible burden to bear.  When we people die, are killed or take their own lives, the burden is compounded with trauma.  SCVRJP seeks to help those impacted and those that have caused the harm.

Our Walk For Awareness annual event is to provide support and raise funds.

We live our mission of peace & belonging in our fundraising.

For a video of the 2011 Walk event, encouraging your participation in 2012, click here.

Caution and blessing, Restorative Justice Circles can quickly create a culture.

When Kay Pranis and Jennifer Ball came to visit SCVRJP, they met with a few of our volunteers and stayed for a Controlled Substance Intervention Circle.  I realized that SCVRJP has developed a culture of Circles.  As we spoke about our work, it was consistent from Underage Consumption Panels to Circles with alternative school students, SCVRJP has a consistent method and manner for our Circle work.

I stick closely to Restorative Justice values, I do all I can to make sure our volunteers, community representatives are aware of the Mission, Vision and Values of this work.  SCVRJP Circles have consistent Restorative Justice Circle elements, consistently.  I have 253 posts on this topic of Circle process.  Each year we keep the paper plates stacked in an area and we watch them grow.  I still have 2011 plates in my office and when you have a meeting with me, you sit right in front of that stack of values.

I recently helped in a North St. Paul elementary school, spent the day going class to class introducing Circle.  The school is implementing Olweus.  I don’t align with some of the methods, however I do support a great deal of it (anything that excludes, in my opinion is perpetuating violence).  This day in the Elementary school, was not my first, I did some training there a few years ago.  Circles are used consistently, classroom morning meeting, school wide Circles to address situations that could erupt in the school.  They even do Circles to support students during difficult times.  I heard a great story about preparing students for a school break, and how they loved hearing a perspective from the school police-liasion officer.

Students in 5th grade, had been in Circles since 3rd grade.  They had been in Circles for the beginning and end of the day, those students KNOW Circle.  They let me know, my Circle was not long enough!  They knew the basics for Circle in their community:  tell the truth, eyes on speaker, quiet hands and feet and listen.  These 4 were simply the theme of the Circles I helped conduct in the school that day.  I realized the school has developed its own culture for their Circles, an effective means for using the process, consistent patterns for communicating for community building and for problem solving.

SCVRJP also holds Victim Empathy Seminars.  We’ve had a few that ended without participants recognizing the harm to the greater community.  I heard feedback to the point I called someone into the office to talk about it.  I hadn’t been keeping those Circles and I had an opportunity to get back to it recently.  When we did the 3rd stage of the Circle, the Community Representatives all passed.  This was something different, I always prepare people and enourage them to role model, and not pass.   The next round the Community Representatives all passed the piece across and over the participants.  I was nearly having a panic attack!  This style didn’t demonstrate core Circle values.  I was feeling uncomfortable, I realized something had developed in our culture that was inconsistent with our vision.

What happened in that moment was a division between us and them.  NOT a quality of Circle.  It became clear to me, that a pattern of doing the VES emerged, a new aspect to the culture.  When I got the talking piece, I immediately changed it out and addressed this.  I pointed out I was confused by the community representative passing and then the round where the talking piece did not go person to person.  I explained the next round going to each person directly.  I reaffirmed that the Circle is about equality.  Then I specifically framed a question everyone in Circle could answer.

What is important in being a good citizen?  If you had a do-over about your citizenship what would it be?

This round had each and every person answering.  This round also had each and every person being teacher and student.  I saw people finish the Circle with accountability and realizations that they caused harm and can move on in a better way.  I even got a new volunteer out of the mix, demonstrating our inclusiveness was effective in growing our community.  Even with a strong committment to a culture, it is important to always make sure the culture is consistent with key values.

Circle keeping from the depths of your humanity.

Thank you Webster dictionary on-line.  Humanity:  The totality of human beings.  Human Beings are mental, physical, emotional and spiritual.  I believe that Circle keeping is most effective when the keeper is working towards a balance and wellness.  I say working towards – cause we grow and learn every single day.

Circle keeping is the manner and method of guiding the process of a Restorative Justice Circle.  Anyone can tell other people what to do.  Facilitation techniques separate you from the group.  The elements of power are important in Circle keeping.  Using the power of love rather than the power of authority.  It takes practice in this.  What you are doing is using a strength, often initially perceived as weakness.  Being vulnerable and creating space for others to do the same is really intentional behavior.

I write about this because of a recent experience.  I was able to get feedback from Kay Pranis and Jennifer Ball.  Kay, author of Peacemaking Circles and the Little Book of Circle process.  Jennifer Ball, co-authored Doing Democracy with Circles (with Kay and Wayne Caldwell).  Links take you to Living Justice Press, where these are also available as E-books!

I was excited to meet Jennifer, and knew she would bring gifts to being part of the Circle.  I love Kay, she has been a teacher, guide, mentor, inspiration for years.  I managed to stay calm about conducting the Circle, by just remembering how I know Circle.  By remembering this is about the Circle, Kay will be a wonderful community participant.  There really is no control of a Circle or the outcomes.  You REALLY do need to trust the process.

It was a good Circle.  One young man, after hearing the story, got up and shook the storytellers hand.  That was so significant because a change of heart (which I always say leads to a change of behavior) happened right there in front of us.  I could go on about what I saw that went well, I will go on about Keeping Circle.

Humanity is the realization we are all the same.  Humanity is a gracious space of connectedness, and connectedness means inclusion.  I’ve been asked about the words I used that night.  The feedback has been that my keeping was smooth and flowed.  I’m thankful, relieved and proud of the work that SCVRJP has evolved into doing.  I’ve been intentional about keeping our Circles very close to core values and the core elements of the process.  I believe that we have created a community of practice – Circles that are invitational, non-judgemental and transformative.  The feedback on the keeping was reflective of this collective.

If you connect to the collective, the core values and elements of Circle, your keeping will come from the depths of your humanity.  Keeping from that place, produces the magic and mystery that is Circle.

Restorative Justice accountibility means understanding the context.

Context, it is understanding things in perspective to other things.  I think we underestimate the importance of context.  For example, it is 2:20am and I have to be leading a Circle in 7 hours.  I should be sleeping.  This blog is burning in my brain and I need to be typing it out.  Right now.  Context for you.  You now have a little more perspective on something around this blog post.

Social emotional context.  Social emotional skills involve walking into a room and picking up if the individuals were just at a funeral or a birthday party.  I’ve had great waitresses, they pick up what is going on at the table and respond with the level of engagement and tone, reflective of our tone at the table.

It bugs me when apology letters are dished out early and expected immediately.  Obviously my first choice is to explore a restorative option.  Plan A, direct victim, plan B surrogate victim or community members.  How can you write a letter of apology without really knowing and understanding the harm you caused.  How, immediately after you have been sanctioned, judged, found guilty, can you focus on the other, when you feel the direct target?

In my work with loss of life cases, traffic fatality mostly, I see different levels of “acknowledging you caused the harm”.  This “acknowledging you caused the harm” is the first step to restorative justice.  Two environments – anything you say will be held against you, the other, confession is good for the soul.  Traffic fatality situations, contain little intentional behavior.  We could debate about the decision to drink, which is intentional, and the decision to drive, or does the decision to drink, take away the decision you make to drink and drive, cause the decisions we make impaired are seldom the decisions we would make stone cold sober.

Real accountability, starts with acknowledging you caused the harm, and people leave behind the debate: “I didn’t mean to do it”.  Full accountability is void of “ya, buts” or “if only”.  Full accountability is difficult.  Taking full responsibility, “I’m wrong”, “I made a mistake”, “I own this 1,000%”, is not common everyday behavior.  However, it can be come the expected standard in criminal justice interventions and occasionally in restorative justice expectations.

When you really mean something you don’t have to say it.  You just live it.  You live it in your values.  You don’t need to go around telling people because you know actions speak louder than words.  Your character is so much inside of you, you don’t need the language of explaining it.  Real, deep down, restorative justice accountability is like that.  I believe it comes from understanding context.  You can’t understand the harm you caused until you understand the context.

Context from crime, means hearing about the impact.  Context means understanding, deeply and directly understanding the others perspective.  The most accountable to fatalities, have been those who have attended the funeral service of their victims.  That probably seems odd to understand.  Not all crime is between strangers, random individuals.  Most people drink with their friends or coworkers, it stands to reason, they can be impacted in traffic fatalities caused by impaired driving.

The context is the story around the story.  Understanding context allows you to mental map where you are.  The map of the heart, the social and emotional aspects of context can be gained in Restorative Justice.  Once you know where you are, what you have caused, then and only then, can you start the path to making it right for others and for yourself.