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.

Restorative Justice Powerpoints Idaho Juvenile Justice Association Presentations.

It was a great conference in Idaho.  I really enjoyed seeing and learning how the state’s justice workers are embracing and utilizing Restorative Justice.  I hope the four sessions I offered were helpful.  I got some individual feedback, the sessions didn’t include evaluation forms for me to review.  I spoke to what I thought would be most helpful.  I tried to listen to the audience, asking participants to show me by a fist to five fingers (fist – little, 5 fingers a lot), their experience, amount of faciliating experience, and finally how dedicated they were to working on further implementation of Restorative Justice.

I am sharing the powerpoints here, for those that attended the sessions, and the blog post readers.  Please contact me if you have any questions, best of luck with your programming and I am happy to discuss coming and doing additional training for you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Restorative Justice Circles, structuring the human element.

Be human.  Be a good relative, establish solid relationships by being relatable.

Restorative Justice Circles process is MORE than just a talking piece.  It is a way of holding a Circle, inviting each and every person to be both student and teacher.  Using values, consensus and 4 stages to guide people through the experience of self-discovery, vulnerability and connection.

The Circle process at SCVRJP, has been tested and executed 1,000’s of times.  I am not overstating this!  This week alone . . . two Circles at drivers education class, a controlled substance intervention (CSI) Circle, an Underage Consumption Panel-Circle and a  Circle to repair harm of vandalism/racial harassment.  That’s 5 Circles for an agency that is open 4 days a week!

Each Circle includes community members, paper plates, with values written.  Each Circle included a mat for the talking pieces, a commitment to show the Center of the Circle, and the center of ourselves is a source of power, change, perspective, and the home to our space of connecting to one another.  The 4 stages are crucial to really making Circle magic happen.  Guiding the process so people enter and exit safely and with new awareness enhances the depth of the experience.

Working with Restorative Justice Circles, with the deep appreciation for executing these in the best manner possible produces results.

 

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)

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 with community, how they impact, what they bring.

I firmly believe in the RJ triad, of including victims, offenders and community members in the encounter process of facilitating Restorative Justice.

Community participants in Circle are crucial.  I wouldn’t set up a process without them.  Community participants provide this:

  • reinforce the norms for behavior in a community.
  • A neutral set of eyes on the incident, a perspective from a neutral point of view.
  • Support for victims that they have an important perspective, that victims are crucial to repairing the harm.
  • To offenders, they offer the support the change is possible.
  • To the keeper, they support and role model the Circle process.

Ran across this interesting blog, and it offers that our brains are impacted by learning from mistakes.  Exactly what we want in Restorative Justice.  The “fixed” mindset and the “growth” mindset influence our ability to grow and change.  I am thinking about how shame reinforces that fixed mindset.  Volunteers in Circle, and other Circle members, when asked to tell about a time they learned something, or a time they had to repair harm, demonstrate their “growth” mindset and growth experiences.

I ask these types of questions in Circles, before addressing the harm.  To pave a path to the truth around the incident, you need to build up trust.  To get those that caused harm to really, understand making a change, you need to get to the heart and the brain.

The heart will let you know the impact, will unlock reasons you might have made that choice in the first place.  The brain, will tell you you can make better choices in the future.  Heart led work, produces heart work.  Another example of the art and science of Restorative Justice, is setting up process that makes the most of all three in your process, the victim, the offender and the community participants!

http://www.iirp.edu/pdf/paradigm.pdf
http://www.iirp.edu/pdf/paradigm.pdf

Restorative Justice: holding people accountable, holding them with heart, 3 steps.

St Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (scvrjp), has specialized in Restorative Justice Circles.  Link here to see session descriptions.  Each Circle is attended by 4-5 volunteers, a keeper, a storyteller and few community mentors to help support the process.  We spend time training our volunteers in the philosophy and approach of Restorative Justice, we offer two-day Circle Trainings twice a year at no charge to volunteers.  If you haven’t volunteered for 6 months, we require a refresher “orientation”.  We offer volunteer in-service sessions with hopes our new and experienced volunteers can build relationships and deepen skills.

These strategies are built-in to ensure we are consistently reminding people of the skills of heart.  We work with deep consideration of the heart and brain.  People will be in one of two brain modes “approach” or “avoid” as a program supervisor, my job is to make sure our staff, our volunteers, our clients area all feeling in a place of engaging.  Since I can’t be everywhere and with everyone (we average a dozen sessions a month) it is crucial our climate and culture is shared and duplicated by everyone.  I recognize this is asking a great deal of people, and these 3 steps are useful in holding others in your heart.

1) Judge None.  You never know someone’s story.  Our brain makes categories of information, to quickly file things.  These categories help and hurt us.  It hurts when we judge others.  You never know the rest of the story about someone else’s life. For victims or offenders, the depth of who people are before and beyond the incident is endless. For RJ to be effective, the willingness to be open must emerge.  That means creating safety.  A non-judgemental atmosphere increases safety.

2)Be Open.  Being open, allows for volunteers to share their own experiences as they arise.  The boundary we use, is your sharing being access to inner strength and wisdom.  If you know your ‘lesson’ learned, then you are likely ready to share in Circle.  If you are still in curiosity or strain about the story, likely not one to share in Circle.  Being open takes courage.  A new volunteer recently experienced this challenge.  We were sharing our awareness of people who don’t use, and sharing why they might decide to do this (talking about use, non-use, abuse and addiction as relationship to substances).  She shared about a friend who lost a loved one due to substance addiction.  Later in the Circle, after reflecting on the story, she found incredible hope in the story, related it back to her friend, and was moved to tears as she shared.  She was open, she shared, and it was an incredible lesson for the rest of us in Circle witnessing.  Tears are often found in Circle, and they show the emotions difficult to express or the power of having our hearts touched.

3)Self-care.  Being a volunteer and holding others in your heart, means caring for your own heart.  Self-care is intentional acts or gestures towards honoring yourself.  Stories can be heavy in Circle, the awareness of larger social harms or complex relationships can leave you feeling you can’t make a difference.  Our program, our volunteers make a difference.  Some Circles you see the fruit and in some Circles you aren’t sure if you planted a seed.  What you can do, is (as we ask in Circle) govern your own experience.  Taking care of yourself, in  a good way, is a way to be connected to others.  Refresh, renew, revive if that means working in your garden, taking a bubble bath, attending church, yoga or a call to walk in the woods.  Your fresh presence brings hope to others!

Thank you SCVRJP volunteers!  We couldn’t deliver our mission without you!  Thank you to all the participants who join us in delivering this mission.  Our partners that refer cases, support the program and help us continue to build peace and belonging with Restorative Justice, THANK YOU!

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

 

Doing restorative justice delicately, deliberately and with dedication.

I have the very good fortune of having a champion of Restorative Justice as a friend and mentor.  Kay Pranis was the Minnesota Restorative Justice Planner.  She’s seen so much in the field, she’s traveled the world teaching and training.  She’s Kay_Pranis2published books, journal articles, and well, she’s a voice of authority to me regardless.  It is her quality of a person, her calm nature, her wisdom to guide my reflections, thoughts, questions.  This quote, reminds me of Kay:

When you meet a being who is centered – you know it – you always feel a kind of calm emanation, it always touches you in that place where you feel calm.

The things we explore bring us back to key concepts, best practice, ethical efforts.  As practitioners of Restorative Justice, I think being delicate, deliberate and dedicated as I have experienced Kay, and tried to be myself, is helpful.

Being delicate.  Holding offenders accountable, while holding and creating a strong relationships.  Relationships, respect, responsiblity the key pillars of Restorative Justice, can’t me created with force.  Check out this link, at 2:30, the segment is promoting OWN Chalkboard Wars.  I love how Gayle King puts it “if kids don’t think you care, they don’t care what you think”.  Circles are the most powerful and effective ways to show kids you care, and to teach kids a way to care about each other.

One of the most important things to teach, when teaching people about Restorative Justice Circles, is structured silence.  AND doing this has to be both delicate and deliberate.  When you role model vs direct, inform, tell people how to behave, you have them learn for themselves.  This takes a deliberate and dedicated embrace of equality.  There are skills, activities, techniques, to bring youth in Circle to the respect of listening one at a time.  This is where empathy develops, an equal exchange and balance of voices in the room.

Being dedicated to Restorative Justice, means avoiding shortcuts, or developing routines, it means continuous exploration of the meaning and purpose of Restorative Justice values.  Each case is unique and should be treated as such. For example, victims should be given the choice of being seated in the room, or walking in the room where the person who caused harm is seated. All sorts of responses from this evolve, however the CHOICE is empowering.  Question yourself, discuss with a mentor.

Being delicate, deliberate and dedicated doesn’t mean without strength.  One teacher, who uses Circle soooo effectively, kept a Circle for students (she’s a pro, doing at least 2 a day in her classroom).  A co-worker, new to the process, experienced a Circle with her, and when it was done, the new coworker said “WOW, I didn’t know you were so powerful”, the teacher: “it’s not me, it is the Circle”.

Where are you most delicate?  Where could you be more so?  What are you very deliberate about, what could you do more intentionally?  Thinking of these questions, will show your dedication to effective Restorative Justice practice.

As a Restorative Justice nonprofit, volunteer development is key!

One of the elements St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (SCVRJP) provides is volunteer in-service opportunities.  This was designed to provide on-going training to volunteers.  Session volunteering is always focused on providing the service.  The volunteer in-service is a time and place for volunteers to build relationships with each other, with SCVRJP staff and with the concepts and philosophy of Restorative Justice.

In-service topics have included having guests from a neighboring program share their experiences.  SCVRJP held an in-service on brain-based change, showing volunteers and the public connections between evidence based practices and Restorative Justice.  Tonight we will be watching a film called Room to Breathe.  In-service sessions are worked within our busy schedule, and provide alternative times for people to be part of our program.  We usually have a dozen of our 50-70 volunteers attend these offerings.  We promote these as “open to the public” hoping to engage people by topic, that might then become volunteers.

Holding these sessions is another way for SCVRJP to deliver on the stakeholder triad of Restorative Justice (victim, offender, community).  This wonderful graphic from IIRP:

rjtypologyThe graphic shows “communities of care reconciliation”, at SCVRJP, we consider everyone within our geopgraphy part of our community.  SCVRJP reaches out to share what we do with the public by engaging social groups, faith-based organizations and offering training and in-service sessions.

Board members are volunteers, another structure of SCVRJP is to have board members attend sessions.  This provides an element of “quality control” and guarantees SCVRJP leadership is in close contact to what we do.  Historically, not that long a go, when SCVRJP was very new, board members also facilitated sessions.  Smaller or new Restorative Justice programs may still be in that same position.  As you grow, it is still helpful to have board members participate in what you do.  Asking a board member to attend one session outside of the regular board meetings is enough to keep the entire board engaged.

A SCVRJP board member, explained how helpful attending an in-service session was.  It was the expectation that board members attend sessions, that led to a board member in a volunteer in-service session.

Development is learning over time.  Volunteer development, allows your volunteers to develop as your program develops.  What we hear, can greatly be influenced by what we already know.  Sometimes what we think is a truth in the morning we can learn by sunset is no longer true.  Myths begin with slight mis-communications.  At SCVRJP we offer half a dozen different programs, and volunteers might assume what they know about one session, applies to all.  That isn’t accurate, and one victim-offender dialogue could have different nuances than another.  It is important to have a consistent message on what your program is doing, key concepts, core philosophical approaches and a pulse on your programs ambassadors to the public, your volunteers.  A volunteer in-service session gives time to clarify these questions or myths that might develop.

Managing a business or a non-profit requires juggling multiple roles and responsibilities.  I’ve used it so much I don’t know where I found it, but I have post-it notes and listed these 5 in lots of places.  Priorities for successful non-profits: 1)Service Delivery 2)Outcome Measures 3)Financial management system 4)Fundraising plan 5)Demonstrate impact, capacity and sustainability.  Taking the time to care, connect and develop volunteers helps move an agency to success or maintain the existing success.  Good luck with your program!