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: and the Eagles Healing Nest Website:

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

Thanks and have a Happy New Year!


5 key reasons Restorative Justice enhances the effectiveness of drug and problem-solving courts.

Following the heels of the published success of drug courts, veterans courts have emerged.  A recent CNN story highlighted success in California.  I really appreciated that the Judge featured shared this:

” . . . we have a ethical and moral obligation to restore . . .”

SCVRJP has been collaborating with area drug courts and treatment courts.  I shared a manual in April, 2010.  My experience has been in seeing current and former drug court participants as volunteers in SCVRJP programming and services.  Our first contact may have been because they were clients, and the impact was so powerful they became volunteers.  My other experience is from working with the family members and victims of drug court participants.  I am networked and woven into our community of prevention, intervention and treatment when it comes to crime, addiction and violence.  I hear such powerful feedback in Circles about the impact of these courts and the restorative justice aspects.  I want to highlight why Restorative Justice enhances this work.

1.) Capitalize on the 2nd chance.  Problem solving courts are a prison alternative.  You can guarantee public safety for as long as you lock a person up.  You can not guarantee they will change, grow or amend themselves.  Restorative Justice focuses on values and living in harmony in your community and relationships with others.  Values in a relationship and focusing and living with positive values, enhance all of us.  Restorative Justice is about respect, all RJ work is rooted in this.  Teaching people to respect themselves, loved ones and the community – as well as to respect the relationship to courts and second chances.

2.) Provide prosocial peers/community connections.  A volunteer group is a social network.  People are healthier with more networks.  People who have turned their lives around are valued in Restorative Justice.  Where else can people use lessons from the past to help the future?  Volunteers help others avoid pitfalls and negative consequences by sharing their stories in Circles.   We have an accepting network in Restorative Justice, it evolves from the deep connections made in Circle.  Since Circles serve all in attendance, the victims, bystander, family members and offenders are ALL helped, all supported and all healed.  This creates a supportive environment that keeps people coming back around to volunteer or attend events, once you are in Circle you are part.

3.)Promotes healing.  Restorative Justice is not psychotherapy, it is not addiction treatment it is not group therapy.  Restorative Justice is an entirely different process for people to heal and connect.  Many trauma goes unaddressed, unresolved.  The symptoms are addressed but the root cause goes untreated.  Using drugs to numb emotional pain causes further issues, addiction, breaking the law, breakdowns in relationships, etc, etc, etc.  Bloom found the top 10 causes of death can be directly related to childhood trauma!  What better time and place for people to work on healing then while also engaged in therapy and treatment.  Restorative Justice, especially Circles provides people the safe space to explore these issues.  Restorative Justice sharing is by invitation and the invitation to be vulnerable by means of honesty and openness provides deep insights for people.

4.)Community bonds.  People connect in a way that people voluntarily go visit them at work or attend graduations.  Imagine you hurt someone, badly.  Then a person who was harmed by the same evil you caused aligns with you and becomes a support.  You understand each other because you see different sides of the same coin.  We have seen that someone else’s parents can influence offender deeply.  Other offenders can transform the parents of an offender.  Imagine seeing family members be less judgemental about addiction.

5.) Restorative Justice WORKS!  In 2006 Umbriet published an article about the evidence of Restorative Justice.  Restorative Justice the EVIDENCE, was a study of studies about RJ.  Reaching beyond the evidence for offenders, Restorative Justice supports the community and victims.  Restorative Justice heals people for all aspects of the issue, not just the criminal aspect.  Restorative Justice addresses the social and emotional impact of crime.  Restorative Justice provides dialogue that helps people process their lives.

Problem solving courts need not go it alone.  Restorative Justice community programs exist all over the world, as the US is growing more and more problem solving courts, they may want to rely on the expertise and evidence established by Restorative Justice.