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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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Respect, Relationship, Responsibility.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Love as a path to accountability. Care and connection as expressions of love.

I’ve been home a few days and I am still in “awe” over my experience at the Idaho Juvenile Justice Association Conference.  It really struck me how hard people are working to engage young people in meaningful, healing relationships.  The fact this is good for community, reduces harms and builds safer, healthier adults was really understood.

Taking ‘restorative’ language to court paperwork, community service and moving to engage victims demonstrated real and intentional creation of healing and accountable process.  True system change was happening and in the process of happening.

I prepared presentations trying to address my audience.  As a former juvenile justice supervisor, I know the day-to-day caseload demands often trump the development of a new program or service.  It was important for me to present the information in a way that demonstrated how SCVRJP does session AND provide workers with some tools for the ongoing models of supervision.

I know some real dynamite, dedicated and awesome juvenile justice workers.  I know they have a spark, a passion and a real LOVE for the work.  I think that is the kind of love for the work, that leads to accountability in individuals.  Restorative Justice accountability begins with acknowledging you’ve caused harm.

If people deny their role in a harmful act, I believe that comes from two places.  1) the fear of punishment or 2) the loss of self-worth to be associated with such a harmful act.  To care about someone means to hold how they feel about themselves in regard.  When offenders deny, minimize or flat-out lie about involvement, some are quick to judge and label the person.  Labels take away humanity.

Working with people to take accountability can be especially hard when the person didn’t mean to cause the harm.  The intentionality for the doer, is how they judge themselves.  Consequences of choices exist, meant to or not.  It is the traffic fatality cases that have taught me so much about holding people accountable with care and connection.  It comes down to that great Gayle King quote:

Kids don’t care what you think, until they think you care.

Holding care and connecting to an individual as a human being, means looking beyond the act/incident of harm.  Restorative Justice is about HEALING and ACCOUNTABILITY.  A caring, non-judgmental adult who is truly interested in the well-being of a teen, especially teens that have broken the law, is a gem of a person if you ask me.  I was in a treasure box of gems in Idaho.

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources for Circle keepers, helping promote the process.

At St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Progam (www.scvrjp.org) we hold our sessions in Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle process.  We depend on volunteers to help us as community members and as Circle Keepers.  We recently developed a few resources for our organization and will share these here.  Let me know what you think!

Elements & Stages

SCVRJP Circle Keeper Guidebook

The next two-day Circle Keeper training at SCVRJP is on October 3rd and 4th from 9-3 both days.  Those volunteering with SCVRJP willl be not be required to pay the $200 registration fee.  Limited scholorships are available.  SCVRJP also provides consultation and workshops, you can contact us and bring a training to your conference or agency.

I’ll be presenting 4 workshops at the Idaho Juvenile Justice Conference August 27, http://www.ijja.us/conference.php

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)

Restorative Justice work as art and being. Three experiences one blog post.

An artist in the show, invited me to the reception.  Twice, so I knew it was important, and relationships are built by going out of our way.  Since I like art, it wasn’t THAT out of the way, so I attended.  Since I know the artist in a totally different context, I didn’t really connect “drawing from life” or the postcard, to what I was going to see.

Voila_Capture1018The gallery was set up with the center space showing the chair the model might sit in.  It became clear from the drawings, the models were nude.  Wow.  I took in the art, appreciated reading the artist statements.  I had just been to a deep meeting and discussion with someone preparing to meet with a surviving family member, in a multiple death traffic fatality incident.  The nakedness of the art, the beauty, reminded me of how we have to get emotionally bare when it comes to Restorative Justice dialogue.  As a facilitator when emotions are high, and grief over the death of a loved is present, you also become bare.  Your own heart is present and you (facilitator) are in it alongside those requesting and agreeing to dialogue.

Later I posted on Facebook, the echoes of this earlier conversation.  It really stayed with me, mostly the bravery of the young person, dealing with very adult issues.  The pre-session preparation was more intense, as we are getting closer to the actual face to face meeting.  The compliment shared was really great to hear as well.  The voiced confidence in SCVRJP and me, confirmed and supported the energy I was feeling about readiness for the dialogue to happen.

photo    This morning a comment on the Facebook post, struck a strong note with me.  Cameron Communicationz, “everything worth doing is an art”.  YES!  I always taught my daughter to know that art was never finished, if you “messed up” just keep coloring or drawing to work that in.  She might not remember that.  I was trying to counter my perfectionism rubbing off on her, but that’s another blog post.  In facilitating a severe crime case, such tender care is needed in exploring the needs of the victims.  Preparing parties to sit face to face after damage and harm, especially when a loved one has died, requires zero attention to your own perfectionism.  All ego of the facilitator needs to be removed, and working towards emotional safety and preparation is the art.

Restorative Justice as art.  That means co-creating with those around you.  That fits well, I teach that a Circle keepers job is to engage everyone as keepers in the Circle.  As I viewed the art in the gallery, there was no way the drawings could have emerged without the live figure (nude model).  Imagine the vulnerability to disrobe and be drawn . . . to me that feels incredibly powerful, a risk taken and completed.  As I looked at the art gallery drawings, I could see myself in some of the drawings.  We connect to art, and I believe we connect to each other in Restorative Justice.  Reflections of ourselves in others.

The link between art and Restorative Justice got me thinking about the similarities.  Using different methods, improving over time, finding yourself in the art you create.  Learning what others interpret or see in your creations.

I got emotionally overwhelmed at the art gallery.  I felt like crying.  I was moved by the courage I felt in the drawings and the honesty expressed.  I enjoyed visiting with the person that invited me.  It was a real lesson, on people being more that you might know.  The restorative justice meeting, the gallery reception, the Facebook comment. Three randomly disconnected things, all now connected in this blog post.  And isn’t that what life and Restorative Justice is all about . . . connections.