Restorative Justice Volunteering IS community.

St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice is, because of a few people volunteering time, energy and a combined $300.  Back in 2001 a bank account was opened as the first official transaction of SCVRJP.  A volunteer board of directors still governs SCVRJP today.  In 2001 I was on the board, I volunteered to get the program going. 

Tonight I presented to the UWRF Business Association.  I talked about the business of a non-profit.  Tips for successful non-profit work.   It was a small group of future leaders, I was upbeat and optimistic.  Very little talk about what Restorative Justice, more about being a leader, networking, collaborating.  A question at the end “why this, why not something that changes or saves the world?”.  My answer was quick and very swift.  “Oh this changes the world, this improves and heals people!”.  I went on to say it’s changed me for the better and that’s changed my world.

SCVRJP has a student intern, he is preparing to address our board and reflect on his nearly 300 hours with SCVRJP.  He’s been volunteering, and recently facilitated a victim-offender conference.  He talked about understanding why I am the way I am.  He shared that feeling of really helping someone.  You don’t go unchanged when you volunteer for SCVRJP.

You might just help get people registered for a class.  Then you listen to our speakers, our storytellers.  You BECOME community for and with others hearing the same story.

Today I got a call, “I’d like to volunteer”.  It was by word of mouth, Mike was calling to volunteer because what Dave told him about it.  I’m always happy to bring someone else in the Circle.  What could someone tell you that would prompt you to call and volunteer.  I need to check back on what Dave had to say.  Dave was part of an underage consumption panel.  That means he was part of a Circle process for young people ticketed for underage drinking.

As a non-profit we utilize a number of volunteers.  We try to find a great match between interests, skills and programs.  If you want to feel more connected your community, give some time to SCVRJP.  I personally volunteer just to keep in touch with how it feels.  I want to make all of our volunteers feel connected.  It’s those connections that keep community strong.  Volunteering is community.

–Peace – – Kris

Circle Phase 4 – Taking Action

The final stage of a Circle Process, deals with leaving the Circle.  The goal is to have everyone reflect on how they experienced the Circle.  It is a chance for a final, say in what you need, so you can leave in Peace.

I often share that you don’t leave a Circle the same as when it started.  I use a skill called “foreshadowing”, predicting or lighting the pathway where a Circle can lead.

One of the magically aspects of Circle, is the bond that is created when people take the journey to be in Circle together.  You can literally see body language change, as strangers transform.  The process of learning about others, sharing a story and addressing issues all help you arrive at the end, feeling a sense of accomplishment.

I sometimes feel sad, or grief at the end of a two day training.  When we work on the this final, final round, I feel better.  Expressions of gratitute and ideas for applying Circle evolve.  I am reminded that my memories and the stories I heard will always be part of who I am.

In our Safe Teen Driving Circles and Underage Consumption Panels – we make sure to gather a public committment at the end of the Circle.  We have the talking piece go around, and everyone shares something they are going to do differently from what they gained in Circle.

In my college class I am always interested by how students close our Circle.  Almost every student has a different aspect of what they will take from the days class.  I was really happy to hear one of my student wish the class was in the middle of the week.  He said it was the highlight of his week, his favorite class.

The final closing you read is important.  My best closing ever came after a long and emotional Circle, to come up with recommendations for the court.  Two young people and their parents, probation officer, community members and restorative justice volunteers were in Circle with me.  The young people did a large amount of damage to a cemetery.  I had an instinct to tell people to stand when I finished the reading.

As this group stood, I was directly across from one of the victims that was particularly cynical about the process being helpful.  The look on this “Grandpa’s” face was approving, supportive and even quite impressed and moved by the process.  It brought me to tears then, and typing about it now has my eyes watery.  The next thing that happened, the “victim” side of the Circle went right into the other half of the Circle.  Parents were given handshakes, the young boys were given pats on the shoulder for participating.  That was amazing.  It was just a gift for me to ask people to stand when we finished.

Finish strong, look for the miracles even as Circles end!  Oh sometimes I say “Handshake, High Five or Hug!”

–Peace – – Kris

SCVRJP – Programs that use Circles

SCVRJP uses Circles! I’ll explain our Circle programs:

We facilitate Underage Consumption Panels, in Circle. A recent volunteer shared that at first explanation, he thought “what, this is for little kids?”. As it turns out he said “the process is amazing and can really get to the heart of issues”. We use a workbook to support the process and spend two hours in Circle with young people ticketed for underage drinking.

We use Circles in Victim-Offender Conferencing, when it applies. SCVRJP has used this to address harm in vandalism cases. When topics are emotionally charged and have a number of individuals I use Circles.

SCVRJP has a program called Victim Empathy Seminars – for surrogate victims to meet with a group of offenders, focusing on Victim Empathy. These are held in Circle.

SCVRJP addressed the number one cause of death for young people 16-24, car crashes. By developing Circles.

The program committee met today and we are partnering with local agencies and will start a domestic violence Circle program soon.

Circle Process with storytellers

At SCVRJP we run our Underage Consumption Panels, Safe Teen Driving Circles and Victim Empathy Seminars all in Restorative Justice Circle Process.  Depending on the emotional depth and participants I will run a Victim Offender Conference using RJ Circle Process.

I completely lean on the principles outlined Peacemaking Circles, by Kay Pranis.  The stages as I explain them are 1.) Getting Acquainted 2.) Building Relationships 3.) Addressing Issues 4.) Taking Action.  I will post other blogs on each of these stages.

I have found it crucially important that as a keeper you are aware of these stages.  Setting intentions and letting the Circle know how it works, is helpful in the consensus element.  The more I can transistion the operation of the circle to the participants the deeper the process.  Just recently it occured to me that no tears had emerged in the Circle Training (very different from Circle).   I asked a “building relationship” storytelling question, and the tears appeared.  It was very healing for me.

The stage that I introduce a speaker is the “addressing issues”.  I turn the talking piece over to a guest speaker.  Often times these speakers are volunteers that help with Victim Impact Panels, speaking to an audience in a classroom style setting.

I’ve seen that speakers prefer the Circle process for sharing.  They get immediate feedback, and feel more connected to the audience.  I think the SCVRJP speakers are just amazing, and in part, because they have the “speaking from the heart” experience from Circles.  I met an experienced speaker, she volunteered for years talking about how her daughter’s tragic death, caused by a drunk driver.  After experiencing a Safe Teen Driving Circle, she approached me.  She shared that the Circle process was very different and much better than just speaking at students.  She said that students would sit an listen, unengaged, because they just needed to be there to get their driving permits.  In Circle they are completely engaged.

In traveling with a speaker, after a storytelling circle, he shared he prefers to speak to people in recovery.  We held a Circle to demonstrate the process, hoping eventually to do more circles in this setting.  I had our speaker come and tell his story.  He volunteers frequently and is a remarkable speaker.  I thought he would role model storytelling in the Circle.  He also accepted questions from others in the Circle (the talking piece was in the center), this allowed the speaker to be a role model about living in recovery.

When I use a storytelling in the Circle process, I make sure the round following the story is a “reflection” on what we just heard.  It is important for listeners to make the content relevant.  We know from brain research that helps us remember.  Sometimes I go two rounds, and reframe the question. 

The “taking action” stage is a time to reflect on our Circle experience and make a statement relevant to what we will take from the Circle.  In Safe Teen Driving Circles, I make sure the students state a “public committment” a specific behavior they will do as a result of hearing the story.

Comments on Attending a SCVRJP Program

Please let us know what program you attended and what your thought about attending and participating.

Victim Impact Panels – providing first hand accounts of the harm that drinking and driving has caused.

Underage Consumption Panels – Circle process, using harm reduction CHOICES program.

Victim Offender – Conferencing – a process to repair harm and make things right

Victim Empathy Seminar – Circles with multiple offenders, community members and a focus on victim empathy

Safe Teen Driving Circles – preventing harm and promoting safety on the roads

Circle Training – two-days of keeper training

Workshop, Class or Presentation presented by Kris Miner

SCVRJP volunteer resources

St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice will send you monthly newsletters, email  Theses newletters include volunteer opportunities.  We love to have our volunteers self-select what they would like to help with.  We started a FACEBOOK group today.  We’ll keep that updated with volunteer training and opportunties.  I posted a few links to that site, and I will get those posted here.

If you are interested in learning more and developing your restorative justice skills stop by the center and pick up one of our Little Books of Restorative Justice.  Quick reads about the philosophy and practice of Restorative Justice.  We have a resource library at the Center including videos, DVD’s, books and articles.  If you are going to be a community member for Underage Consumption Panels, we have a powerpoint presentation for you to review before hand.  A training piece that is good to watch.  I’ll see if I can post it here!

We partner with Barron County Restorative Justice and can send our volunteers to their trainings.  I am willing to offer 1:1 training sessions, if you want to contact me to schedule something.

I am looking forward to our upcoming conferencing training session.  Let me know what you need for training!  We couldn’t do our work without our community members and volunteers.

Our special group of volunteer speakers, for Victim Impact Panels, Underage Consumption Panels and Safe Teen Driving Circles work with me one to one.  No one is born with perfect public speaking skills.  Even the best speakers and speeches need to be practiced.  I try to help speakers with story telling organization, speaking tips and constructive feedback.  Current speakers will meet with new speakers to help those out that are interested.  Speaking about the loss of a loved one, or the impact of causing a fatal crash takes a tremendous amount of courage.  It’s this kind of courage that results in some healing and peace of mind.  I so appreciate all of our storytellers.  I KNOW you make a difference, people witnessing your strength is inspirational.  Call me to set up an appointment if you would like to become a speaker for SCVRJP.

Everyone on our team is valuable and we appreciate ALL volunteer contributions, from our board members who consider budget and programming to our interns who hang up posters, we appreciate you!