5 options to make Teen Court more restorative.

Typically when I blog about teen court (links to past posts), I am providing examples about how it is not really Restorative Justice.  I have learned and recognize there are many different models and versions of Teen Court.  I do appreciate the youth development and alternative approach that teen courts can provide.  I am going to use today’s blog post to offer 5 specific ideas on how Teen Court programs might become more restorative.

  1. Decisions about you, should be made with you.  This includes offenders/offending behavior.  Restorative Justice belief: exclusion is a form of violence and violence begets violence.  I am assuming the point of teen court is to “right the wrong” in a way that prevents future harm.  Mixing it up and involving youth offenders in decisions that impact them can be a step towards being more restorative.  This would mean teen juries don’t leave the room.  This would mean the “judge” doesn’t make the final decision without input from all parties.
  2. Move the focus from the procedure of others representing the offender and the victim.  Restorative Justice belief: Justice involves belonging and community.  When another person is involved in presenting/representing/speaking for someone there can be negative consequences.  The speaker might not have the “voice” of the person they are representing.  The silent party might feel on the outside, versus being included.  Restructuring the representation to include direct contribution would make the court more restorative.
  3. Train the youth in Restorative Justice Circles or at very least alternative sanctions.  See what the youth find for comparing and contrasting the two (court or RJ process).  Explore the ideas generated by the youth.  If it really is the “teen’s court” or “youth court” give the students more knowledge, information and skills to work from.  Restorative Justice belief: Restorative Justice is organic and grows in ways and areas reflective of the community.  In my experience courts develop routine and procedures, and those procedures become the focus instead of finding individual case by case accountability.
  4. Use the Restorative Justice questions to learn about the “harm”.  Restorative Justice Belief:  Crime/conflict is harm to relationships, those most impacted, are most relevant to making things right.  Ask what happened, who was impacted, what is needed to make things right.  Focus the discussion and exploration of the incident on ways that frame up the context of the incident.  Rather than proving right/wrong, guilty/not guilty look to identify systemic challenges that contributed and seek solutions rather than punishments.
  5. Dismantle the physical hierarachy.  At very least, shape into a Circle.  Restorative Justice Belief:  Peacemaking Circles are a process with a specific philosophy and key elements. I remember being horrified at a professional conference and seeing a Circle demonstration where the talking piece was used by those in Circle to take turns asking shaming questions of the offender.  At the same moment I was proud of my coworker, when her head spun toward me in disbelief!  We don’t know what we don’t know.  If you are going to do Peacemaking Circles, I suggest getting training, practice and more training and practice.  I do recommend trying to be a bit more restorative and instead of tables across from each other, or people sitting in structures of role, you simply move to a more democratic seating arrangement.

If you test any of these, please let me know how it turns out.  Years of experience in many, many kinds of Circles, I do depend and promote the use of Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circles, it is my bias.  However, I have come to learn that small changes can have big impact.  I also heard myself tell a training audience . . . “you have to crawl before you can walk and walk before you can run”.  Maybe one of these 5 will move a Teen Court towards running full speed with Circle process!

Building the trust of school staff, using Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circles

I’ve been teaching teachers and school staff about using Restorative Justice in schools, since 2007.  Since that time, I’d like to think, I’ve gotten better at doing that.  I’m really thankful for all the people that have shared feedback, offered points of improvement and stayed in contact.  Over the years I’ve heard very positive stories from educators that use the model and methods . . .

changed the way I think about my students, the best classroom management tool in 21 years
my students now live up to my expectations, instead of seeing them as unattainable
I know more about my students, we have stronger relationships than ever before

I firmly believe a key component to effective schools outcomes and implementation is to get the foundation of Restorative work happening to BUILD COMMUNITY, BEFORE repairing harm.  This is where the breakdown in trust can happen.  Staff want to know how to do the ‘repair harm’ before learning how to build community.  The trust for the process and the trust of people are key skills in being an effective practitioner.

In order to be teaching people Circles and Conferences, you’ve got to know how to build community.  As Restorative Justice trainers emerge from community based programs, it should be acknowledged that not all have the ‘build community’ capacity.  Most community based RJ programs, respond to an incident that initiated the referral.  Building restorative community is a different (but similiar) process.  I’ve learned 5 tips for building trust with school staff when teaching others school-based Restorative Justice.  In essence building the trust as a trainer is as important and building community!

  1. They have to be safe enough to tell you their fears and challenges.  I use three words, and we play a word game like hangman to get these in the room: Impossible, Unrealistic, Dangerous.  Those are the 3 resistance to Restorative Practices.  I relate my stories around these, I categorize challenges into one of these 3, and I provide structured responses and time for the training group to develop their own answers to their own challenges.
  2. Demonstrate and model Circle.  There are two ways I do this, in a quick mini-demonstration, where we do four simple passes of the talking piece.  I also try to do a real, heart-felt, soul-connection, someone cries Circle.  You have got to show and have them feel the power of the humanity that comes from Circle.
  3. Ask, don’t tell.  I repeatedly say “build community . . . common . . . unity”  I ask them to “try it” and to try it “like this”.  Teachers have a great deal of knowledge and confidence, they earned it!  They are in front of an audience ALL-DAY!  Just as a community Restorative Justice program promotes ride-alongs in law enforcement, I promote “teach-alongs”.  If you are teaching teachers Restorative Justice and you haven’t spent time in a school, go to a school and shadow a teacher, all day.
  4. Be sure you are not putting another straw on the camels back!  Connect to current design, current approaches, find the strengths and community places that exist.  It can be very difficult, especially when we think about the work of Restorative Measures as the most fundamental change in school discipline since we stopped spanking in schools.  

    .  Start where they are and build from there.  One more, or a new thing, is easily dismissed.  Use videos that show the universality of the concepts.

  5. Be you.  The best you possible.  People don’t trust a shyster.  If you don’t have experience facilitating, you shouldn’t be teaching.  You can get experience by volunteering for a community Restorative Justice program.  Ask for students to volunteer and be in Circle (tip from Nancy Riestenberg) so you can practice and develop comfort in Circle facilitation.

The field of Restorative Justice is at a beautiful place with schools.  We need to keep it real and continue to honor those that have taught us, and to do the work in a genuine and authentic way.

 

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.

 

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.

Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle Training for Veteran Support.

Beginning January 15 and concluding on February 7, this blog will feature posts on applying Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle process to the support of Veterans, Veteran family members and community volunteers.  This area and application for supporting healing, reintegration and restorative justice principles has been in the works for me for years.  The first formal training is scheduled for February 10 & 11, 2014.  Please click here: Veterans Circle Training Feb 2014 for the flyer.  You can also save this pdf, and then email as an attachment.

To bring this training together, SCVRJP has partnered with a dynamic program  in Northern Minnesota, the Eagles Healing Nest.  For a story that aired on my birthday:  http://kstp.com/article/stories/s2953855.shtml and the Eagles Healing Nest Website: http://www.eagleshealingnest.com.

Join us for the training or consider arranging a training in your community!  If you have a program to feature, I would be happy to link to your program in the February 7 blog post.  Email me your questions of topics for the Restorative Justice Veterans Support blog features at scvrjp@gmail.com.

Thanks and have a Happy New Year!

 

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!

 

Restorative Justice listening . . . to bare witness.

That is an intentional typo.  I’m going to try to explain the kind of listening that works best in Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circles.  Not listening to respond, not active listening so you can reframe and respond.  The kind of listening that is free of judgement.  Listening that could be called ‘bearing witness’ to another person.  What does to bear witness mean?

I got to explore this with a small group of volunteers we were working on their skills to become Cirlcekeepers at SCVRJP.  I used a volunteer behavior to make my point.  A great listener, yet and responder in a verbal Mmmm, when he hears something he really understands.  Great in any other setting.  In the context of listening in Circle, we ask that all judgement be removed from Circle.  Judgements that are positive and also those that are negative.  Even when we toss in an affirmation of Mmmm, we aren’t honoring the talking piece.

The role of the person without the talking piece is to understand the other talking.  That includes refrain from judgement.  That includes hearing the whole share of a person.  I believe (informed by many, many experiences) that when we listen without those judgements, the speaker finds a way to their deep, inner truth, and beings to speak to their solutions.  I was doing a presentation and a few in the audience had been in Circle.  A young man stood up and offered that when you share in Circle, you learn about yourself, you find out who you are in what you say.

Our training group really explored this topic.  Someone realized that a head nod, means “I heard you, now move on”.  Someone else shared frustration when speaking to someone who is agreeing with you, but knowing that they don’t really understand what they say they are agreeing to.

In my head, I’, running what ‘nay-sayers’ might think of this post.  That is not judgement free.  What I need to share, is that we do more in Circle, once people are listened to in this very deep, personal way, an openness to understanding, new ideas, deeper empathy and compassion can emerge.  To get to a deep place, a deep connection, this type of listening is necessary.

In training sessions, I work hard to give the deep connected experience of Circle.  If you are going to be Keeping effective and powerful Circles, it is important to really understand the fundamental things, like the power of the talking piece, and the role of it being much, much deeper than to simply dictate who is speaking.

The bare over bear.  Metaphorically bare of your own need to comment, bare of your own judgement, bare of anything to fully receive and understand another human being.  I do think we see the actions of others through the lens of our own experiences.  We need to understand others (different that see others).  The empathy we create in Circle by being bare listeners, creates a new level and energy of empathy that others can receive.  I hope you will give this kind of energy a try.

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Memory tool for explaining Restorative Justice Circles.

Anytime we can think of an image we are familiar with, (an existing neuro pathway) we are more able to remember things we associate to that image.

For teaching storytellers Restorative Justice Storytelling process, I ask people to associate the stages of storytelling to a baseball diamond.

For people learning Circles a Railroad Crossing sign.  I just typed up a handout (Memory Tool for explaining Circle) for tomorrows Keeper Meeting.

RR-25s

I have a few changes, the L on the left changes, but this Memory Tool can be a quick and easy way to learn how to ‘Circle-speak’ . . . Circle-speak is developing the language that opens hearts.

Circle-speak is . . .

. . . inviting over authoritative

. . . suggestive over directive

. . . about opportunities over rules

. . . supportive over assumptive

. . . from the heart, open, honest and genuine

You say things not always heard in everyday conversations . . .

. . . listening with the ears of your heart

. . . speaking your wisest words

To bring people to a deeper space of connection . . . connect with the deepest parts of yourself.  Be congruent about your most positive beliefs in people.  Be open to your own heart being changed by Circle.

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Campus Restorative Justice as a community non-profit.

I feel in love with Restorative Justice in the late 90’s.  The first training left me a bit confused, maybe I should say “challenged”.  At that time, I was working from a place of ego than compassion.  I saw the families on my caseload as very different from me.  I was missing the basic humanity and the fact that we are all interconnected (click to tweet).  I put a wedge/distance between us because I hadn’t yet faced many of my own pains.  It is our suffering connects us the quickest (tweet).  Last night in Circle, as soon as someone opened up, “went there” and shared about a harm, the rest of the Circle members became more engaged, more open.  I feel far more effective as a “helper” these days than back in the late 90’s.  THANK YOU IIRP for bringing that first training session to town!  Thank you the State of Minnesota for implementing a Restorative Justice Planner!

It is not the 90’s anymore.  I’ve seen trends come in, tried to understand where they came from what was intended.  Some very good, like the expansion of Restorative Justice to college campus.  Some concerning for example, blueprint layouts for a prison called Restorative Justice (visiting areas designed to be circular).  Some changes are needed, as Restorative Justice learned, shifted, grew, it became more defined.  Teen Court is not Restorative Justice and we need to put each on a clear path and not co-mingle the two.

Campus programs, like community, school or prison programs of Restorative Justice can start from many places.  Sometimes a pressing need appears and Restorative Justice is brought in.  In some instances, the shift in addressing student misconduct is evaluated and a new way emerges, the new way selected is Restorative.  Restorative Justice in all areas (not just campus)  works best when designed for 3 areas.  The first to focus on the community culture over all, Circles to connect – reaffirm relationships, the second for at-risk places or where we need to rebuild relationships, and finally when a wrong-doing has occurred, Circles to repair-relationships.

The story of St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (SCVRJP)- and our local campus University of Wisconsin River Falls, has all of the elements I mentioned above.  SCVRJP has been called upon to come and facilitate for community building.  Specifically with Destination students – teaching the tool of Circle Keeping – to trip leaders.  Service learning has a component of reflection.  Circles make great containers for this type of deep reflection.  They especially help students cross-pollinate the good in each other.

SCVRJP and UWRF have worked side by side to address specific harms on campus.  We’ve taken referrals and worked with students who experienced conflict.  SCVRJP responded when a student died on campus, we held a Circle to support and grieve together.  Students use to pass into the criminal justice system from campus, mostly for underage consumption.  Now, the campus housing policy, sends them directly to SCVRJP.  Not only has this has brought fewer appearances in court, an officer was quoted in saying few incidents of passed out students on campus.

Our local non-profit provides students a service learning site, internships, we speak at campus programming.  After a few semesters off, I am back to teaching a class on campus.  Budget cuts and financial adjustments caused the break.

So now, SCVRJP is seeing more campuses represented at our training sessions!  Housing staff, student responsibility leaders from different campuses and programs are coming to the two-day Circle Training.  Many campuses are developing internal programs each designed to suit the needs of their campus.  We’ve provided training specifically to campus staff and are available to contract for training events.

The housing professionals from the ATCCHA schools who attended the October 28, 2011 professional development session at the University of Wisconsin – River Falls found the presentation by Kris Miner of the St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Center to be professional, informative and enlightening.  Kris did an excellent job of sharing information not only on the tenants of restorative justice, but how it can be applied and utilized by student conduct administrators.  Staff in attendance felt that the presentation met the need they had to learn more about this topic.

Sandi Scott Duex, Director of Residence Life/Student Rights & Responsibilities University of Wisconsin – River Falls

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?