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?

 

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 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 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.

Connecting with the community, nonprofit networking promotes mission & vision.

St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program, SCVRJP began from an idea, just 12 and a half years ago and now services and programs have reached nearly 2,000 in just the first half of 2012.  Many dedicated board members, staff, volunteers, supporters and partners have helped develop and create the nonprofit that “promotes peace & belonging utilizing restorative justice principles & practices” (the mission of SCVRJP).

The nature of Restorative Justice is involve the community in repairing harm.  What Restorative Justice views as harm, is often times often labeled by a particular crime or violation of school code.  Harm, is anything that violates the integrity of another person.  Many times that can extend beyond what laws offer for protection.  If harm doesn’t have the criminal or legal definition, then those systems can’t engage as they might with situations that meet criminal and legal definitions.  SCVRJP focuses on our mission and addresses peace & belonging from building community to responding to crime and harm.

Our work with schools has been developed over time.  Our services are offered  and accepted as schools find value in the process of Circles and the use of Restorative Measures.

The mission of peace & belonging was demonstrated as SCVRJP was busy, helping teachers that will be using Circles as part of an advisory program.  Demonstrations and trainings included student mentors (upper classmen) to have role models in the freshman advisory groups.  It was easy to train on this topic, since SCVRJP engages community mentors in Circles.  Volunteers that support the philosophy, role model the process and provide input to repair the harm.  The feedback from these Circles was positive, that students and staff were able to see each other in a different light.  Confidence was built about using the Circle process and each Circle no matter the topic improves and builds your connections to community.  SCVRJP hosted 7 Circles in one afternoon!

When the harm in our community, the harm of suicide became a concern and a public forum (2010) was held, SCVRJP responded with Circles to support those impacted.  This has evolved into an entire program of services called Restorative Response.  Now SCVRJP is and can be present for any group requesting a Circle after being impacted by sudden, tragic loss – often times in situations of homicide, suicide, traffic fatality, drug overdose.  SCVRJP also offers monthly support group, Restorative Response Circles (6 week sessions) and informal support through a volunteer, match by the bereavement relationship (parent to parent, spouse to spouse).  This program also includes a Grieving Families Guide, which developed after a state trooper listened, and created a resource.  An SCVRJP volunteer, brought that resource to SCVRJP and asked, “can we do this”?  The Guide was distributed on May 31, 2012, and the resource is available to area law enforcement, medical responders, hospitals, grief support groups and is intended to be delivered within the first 48 hours of an un-natural death.  For more details or to obtain copies contact SCVRJP at SCVRJP@gmail.com.  For those outside our service area, the resource can be purchased at a minimal cost to cover printing.

SCVRJP connects with community issues, and attends as many requests as possible.  The O’Connell Funeral Home and St. Bridgets Church hosted a Grief speaker, Richard Obershaw, author of Cry until you Laugh.  SCVRJP hosted a information table, shared resources and connected with community members.  The presentation included the importance of storytelling and sharing grief, the same methods the Restorative Response program provides.  Nonprofit networking includes being present for those that are sharing your message and collaborating with partners to build on strengths and connections.  These connections can them promote your mission and others relate our message.

I was saying thanks for the opportunity, and I had to ask who suggested SCVRJP as a resource.  I was informed the suggestion came from several different places, “your marketing is working well”.  I smiled knowing that the best marketing is a service delivered well.  If peace & belonging our experienced people say good things.  It is each “good thing” that builds on another.  SCVRJP is conducting Circles around some very painful topics, and with some very tender audiences.  The responses are very positive, without our history and background, those doors would not have opened and those invitations not made.  We owe those that have paved the way, as much as we owe those willing to openly express their grief, trauma, resilience and reflections on harmful incidents.  That is community pulling together and that is what promotes the mission of peace & belonging.

 

 

 

The work to move life forward when others have passed, the power of healing.

A recent Facebook status:

The journey from survivor to thrivor takes courage.  I followed her into the coffee shop and saw the tattoo with names of the deceased across her back.  Three relatives died in that traffic crash 4 years ago, after 9 months of meetings and prep work, she will soon be meeting the driver of the other vehicle involved.  It is powerful work, what some do to heal.

Restorative Justice is grounded in 3’s – Victim/Offender/Community.  Howard Zehr’s 3 pillars: Harms & Needs, Obligations, Engagement.  (Four Words!).  The SCVRJP logo has 3 swirls, with the 4th the white background, the 4 colors of the Lakota Medicine Wheel.

I believe we have a 4th in those we address and engage in Restorative Justice.  Victim-Offender-Community and Collective.  Four sections of the Circle.  Four stages of Circle process, 4 words in the 3 pillars of Restorative Justice.

“Collective”  is bigger and broader than community.  When I think of engaging “community” in Restorative Justice I am asking my law enforcement officers, school staff, citizens, bystanders and others connected to the specific incident.  When we do preventative work, our audience becomes the community.  For example a Teen Driving Circle in a Drivers education classroom, creates a community listening to an offender or victim.  Collective is those impacted further and beyond the immediate community.  Teens go home and tell parents about the powerful story heard. I remember when my daughter was in high school, she was a football cheerleader so I attended football games. After the Restorative Justice work at the school, several parents came to me with questions because their children talked about the Restorative Justice experience.

The ripple of Restorative Justice work goes far and wide, I believe it has impact on the universal human collective.  By addressing Mental, Physical, Emotional and Spiritual aspects Restorative Justice must reach beyond, and that ‘Spiritual’ aspect would be the collective.  When you do loss of life work, you speak about the survivors views on the after life.  You talk about what the deceased would want the living to be doing.  Deceased are usually viewed as spirits or angels, you accept what that survivor defines – and usually the view from heaven, that higher perspective is a spiritual one.  In a spiritual view of things, values always emerge.  Love, forgiveness, compassion, etc, etc. by creating the energy of these things, Restorative Justice impacts the collective.

The collective impact, when people heal from tragedy can be felt.  The two women that will be doing a Victim-Offender dialogue, are exploring what speaking together might look like.  The offender has been speaking about her experience of distracted driving.  The consequences and the lesson is being shared with others to prevent a similar harm.  If/when these two begin to speak together, they will not only have the story of the crash, they will have the story of their journey of Restorative Justice.

I often say, “when we share accessing our own inner strength and wisdom, we help others do the same”.  To access your inner strength and wisdom.  Restorative Justice is the process and the venue for people to access and put this strength and wisdom to use.  Some people need the connection to the other person most connected to the incident.  That is why some victims request Restorative Justice in loss of life incidents.

Can you imagine the courage it would take to meet with the person driving the car that caused a crash that killed 3 of your relatives?  Most people initially hearing the thought of loved ones killed, think about revenge or retaliation.  Those two “R”‘s are phases people go through and some stay there.  Others move to the “r” of restoration, and that is where healing and moving life forward happens.

I’ve had the unique opportunity to accompany a number of people, seeking Restorative Justice after loss of life.  Each person leaves me changed.  Each case influences the next, because I have a broader, deeper understanding of the pain and suffering from losing a loved one suddenly.  Each person is unique and they are treated as such and with the utmost respect.  It keeps me humble and grounded to recognize and realize this work is not just for the victim, the offender and the community.  This work is for the collective.  Mankind can do better and be better when we seek to heal with each other.

 

NY Bus Bully incident, Karen Klien and Restorative Justice.

The bus monitor bullied by middle school boys.  It’s been in the media and ironically, I first heard of the incident in Circle Training.   Karen Klien recently offered that she would like to talk to them to ask they why.  (article)

The natural course of this, has some restorative elements.  The victim didn’t think the apology letters were sincere.  It was the 4th student who did an apology face to face that helped Karen.

Restorative Justice is victim-centered, victim initiated, different from systems, who discipline, punish, sanction.  Repairing the harm becomes the responsibility of systems and repairing the harm is the focus of Restorative Justice efforts.  Systems that engage Restorative Justice can do double the repair work.  Karen said she is “fine” with the school’s response.  My bet is that Restorative Justice would produce results that are more than her feeling fine.

There are limitless options in Restorative Justice, and who knows what a well run Circle or Restorative Justice Conference could have produced.  I do want to compliment those that responded under the scrutiny of international media.  Well done to include community service with senior citizens.

Restorative Justice and system responses usually come to the same type of outcomes.  The difference is that the families of both victim and offender are involved in co-creating the outcomes.  Victims are more satisfied, offenders are more compliant. (Evidence article) In my experiences the families of those that caused harm, are much more on board and understanding of any consequences or sanctions.

In my community some of our local schools will assign Restorative Justice as a condition of returning after expulsion.  I wish we could set it up so we could do Restorative Justice quickly, when in some instances we could.  When we have gotten a referral, when we’ve done “morning after” restorative justice it has worked really well.  I don’t understand why it doesn’t happen more often.

At the same time, I should be cautious of what I wish for.  Our nonprofit only has so much capacity.  In part that is why SCVRJP, teaches others to do Restorative Justice.  Our partnership with our local university is an excellent example.  They recently created a student leadership position “Circlekeeper”.  Clearly they see the value.

When I teach schools about Restorative Justice – I come from a whole school approach.  That Circles, a Restorative Justice process, can be done to change culture, increase safety, reduce harm.  Classroom circles, school wide Circles, Circles to respond to wrong-doing – all based on a very simple model.  It is so effective and the results are long-lasting.  When I haven’t seen a word about Restorative Justice in this incident, I realize how far we have to go in bringing Restorative Justice, aka Restorative Measures, aka Restorative Practices to schools.

I get optimistic about humanity when I see that Restorative elements were alive and happened organically in the incident on the NY bus.  Good things happened, and it resembled restorative work, and it happened because Restorative Justice makes sense, it is grounded in the potential for good to come from bad.  You see the power of the human spirit is designed to heal.  Those boys acted from a place of their edges, not their core.  When they said sorry, and they accepted the sanctions from the school, they are now acting from their core.  What more could we ask for?

I hope the path ahead is smooth for everyone involved.  I hope that we can continue to learn about bully behavior and respond to it in a way that people learn and aren’t punished into becoming worse.

Office of Justice Programs – Crime & Victimization presentation – Restorative Justice.

Restorative Justice for victims, can always be shared.  I was fortunate to be able to share at the Minnesota Office of Justice Programs Crime & Victimization Conference.  My overall outline was to share what Restorative Justice is, how best to meet needs of victims with Conferences or Circles.

The powerpoint I used is here:  Crime & Victimization Conference May 2012 updated

I used a brief handout with 80 people attending, OJP Crime Victims handout

I ran a slideshow so people could see feedback about our programs.  Quotes from our community.

SCVRJP contracts with agencies to bring trainings on Restorative Justice.  Please see our website for more information.  www.scvrjp.org.