Restorative Justice when offenders don’t want community involved.

How a restorative justice practitioner handles challenges in the preparation stage is very important.  One common challenge is those that caused harm, or their parents, push back against community involvement.  Thanks to the Ministry of Justice, Jamaica for this image:restorative-justice-three-parties

My recommendation so to find out where this resistance is from, try to understand the concern and then offer an appropriate response to move forward.  It is very important is to work through these concerns so those participating fully understand what the Restorative Justice goals are.  There are no shortcuts to doing effective restorative justice Tweet: There are no shortcuts to doing effective restorative justice. @krisminer http://ctt.ec/bdjfd+  These tips are designed to give you tools in your preparation for a successful Restorative Justice dialogue, in a conference or circle setting.

Top 3 reasons those that caused harm are resisting community involvement.

1) They think the process is punitive.  The person resisting the community has shame, and doesn’t want to have others judge them.

2)They might be worried about confidentiality.

3)They might not feel in control, or understand the process is voluntary.

Helpful, restorative responses:

  • Make an apology for your failure to explain things correctly.  Be so assured of the health of having community.
  • Re-explain the philosophy and approach.  Assure community is present to hold positive outcomes.  Some anxiety before is a meeting is normal, it’s because it is so important.
  • Be confident in the role of community, it is not an option for them not to be present.  Do this conversationally, not like you are dictating things.
  • If the person is worried that they know your community mentors, assure them that is a good thing!  That is how community works.
  • Validate the choices made to participate.  When a young woman scoffed at me “I’m only doing this do get out of being suspended”, I calmly responded “oh, Ok, you made the right choice.  Why don’t you want to be suspended?”
  • Assure the concerns by explaining how much volunteers are trained in the process, volunteers have signed confidentiality agreements.  Let them know that they are understanding, and are parents themselves, and every single person has made a mistake.  Reiterate the foundation and roots of restorative justice.
  • Tell a story about a time other people had similar concerns and how the session went very well.
  • Be sure to ask them about their resistance, don’t make assumptions.  If they ask you a question about the volunteers, you don’t need to answer, you can ask another question about why they are needing that information.
  • Maintain a respectful discussion and explore their needs, I’ve found the open honest discussion leads to a willingness to participate.

Other important factors are for you to take care of your volunteers . . . respect them as community holding valuable information and need for involvement.  They have been trained and take the time to participate, don’t exclude them because you put the person who caused harm in charge.  You are the facilitator . . . your job is to prepare people, not to have them prepare conditions.  The facilitator is the one with the most information about the way the process works.  Prepare, prepare, prepare.  If you can’t get consent for community, let the participant know you have to think about how to move ahead.  Ask them to also think about it.

Just as you prepare victims to know their needs, you prepare those harmed to know their fears.  Once they are out on the table they can be addressed.  To move forward and try restorative justice without the community is excluding a KEY and CORE practice.

 

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.

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 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

 

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!

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.

 

 

 

Support for responding, reacting or restorative-ing.

St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program utilizes the principles and process of Restorative Justice to address public health issues of impaired driving, underage consumption, controlled substance use, disorderly conduct, and other conflicts/crimes that are referred and appropriate for Restorative Justice.  We’ve developed a strong program utilizing community members, storytelling and Restorative Justice Circles.

RJ – Restorative Justice – is vicitm-centered, in a world of process for offenders.  The discipline, sanction, punishment models are very different, however a source of referrals, and an introduction of a harmful incident to a Restorative process.

Case flow from incident to SCVRJP.  SCVRJP has grown to be a trusted and effective option for many.  For others, the program is not utilized, dismissed or misunderstood.  As the Executive Director, I carry a great deal of passion about the work we do.  I am a true believer in Restorative Justice.  I get to make important decisions on a daily basis about responding or reacting.  I train our volunteers and I seek to live the values of RJ and utilize Respect, Responsibility and Relationship as best I can.

Others might be faced with similiar challenges of feeling undervalued, dismissed or misunderstood.  These may root from the intentional or UNintentional actions of others.  They may root from your own perceptions, expereinces or lenses.  Recent tragic events may trigger your need to do more, say more, right the wrong.  For that, I’d like to share a resource I discovered – LINK.  You’ll find some strategic advice, and a poem that I wanted to share:

You can’t be all things to all people.

You can’t do all things at once.

You can’t do all things equally well.

You can’t do all things better than everyone else.

Your humanity is showing just like everyone else’s.

 

So: You have to find out who you are, and be that.

You have to decide what comes first, and do that.

You have to discover your strengths, and use them.

You have to learn not to compete with others,

Because no one else is in the contest of *being you*.

Then:

You will have learned to accept your own uniqueness.

You will have learned to set priorities and make decisions.

You will have learned to live with your limitations.

You will have learned to give yourself the respect that is due.

And you’ll be a most vital mortal.

 

Dare To Believe:

That you are a wonderful, unique person.

That you are a once-in-all-history event.

That it’s more than a right, it’s your duty, to be who you are.

That life is not a problem to solve, but a gift to cherish.

And you’ll be able to stay one up on what used to get you down.

You can’t be all things to all

Caution and blessing, Restorative Justice Circles can quickly create a culture.

When Kay Pranis and Jennifer Ball came to visit SCVRJP, they met with a few of our volunteers and stayed for a Controlled Substance Intervention Circle.  I realized that SCVRJP has developed a culture of Circles.  As we spoke about our work, it was consistent from Underage Consumption Panels to Circles with alternative school students, SCVRJP has a consistent method and manner for our Circle work.

I stick closely to Restorative Justice values, I do all I can to make sure our volunteers, community representatives are aware of the Mission, Vision and Values of this work.  SCVRJP Circles have consistent Restorative Justice Circle elements, consistently.  I have 253 posts on this topic of Circle process.  Each year we keep the paper plates stacked in an area and we watch them grow.  I still have 2011 plates in my office and when you have a meeting with me, you sit right in front of that stack of values.

I recently helped in a North St. Paul elementary school, spent the day going class to class introducing Circle.  The school is implementing Olweus.  I don’t align with some of the methods, however I do support a great deal of it (anything that excludes, in my opinion is perpetuating violence).  This day in the Elementary school, was not my first, I did some training there a few years ago.  Circles are used consistently, classroom morning meeting, school wide Circles to address situations that could erupt in the school.  They even do Circles to support students during difficult times.  I heard a great story about preparing students for a school break, and how they loved hearing a perspective from the school police-liasion officer.

Students in 5th grade, had been in Circles since 3rd grade.  They had been in Circles for the beginning and end of the day, those students KNOW Circle.  They let me know, my Circle was not long enough!  They knew the basics for Circle in their community:  tell the truth, eyes on speaker, quiet hands and feet and listen.  These 4 were simply the theme of the Circles I helped conduct in the school that day.  I realized the school has developed its own culture for their Circles, an effective means for using the process, consistent patterns for communicating for community building and for problem solving.

SCVRJP also holds Victim Empathy Seminars.  We’ve had a few that ended without participants recognizing the harm to the greater community.  I heard feedback to the point I called someone into the office to talk about it.  I hadn’t been keeping those Circles and I had an opportunity to get back to it recently.  When we did the 3rd stage of the Circle, the Community Representatives all passed.  This was something different, I always prepare people and enourage them to role model, and not pass.   The next round the Community Representatives all passed the piece across and over the participants.  I was nearly having a panic attack!  This style didn’t demonstrate core Circle values.  I was feeling uncomfortable, I realized something had developed in our culture that was inconsistent with our vision.

What happened in that moment was a division between us and them.  NOT a quality of Circle.  It became clear to me, that a pattern of doing the VES emerged, a new aspect to the culture.  When I got the talking piece, I immediately changed it out and addressed this.  I pointed out I was confused by the community representative passing and then the round where the talking piece did not go person to person.  I explained the next round going to each person directly.  I reaffirmed that the Circle is about equality.  Then I specifically framed a question everyone in Circle could answer.

What is important in being a good citizen?  If you had a do-over about your citizenship what would it be?

This round had each and every person answering.  This round also had each and every person being teacher and student.  I saw people finish the Circle with accountability and realizations that they caused harm and can move on in a better way.  I even got a new volunteer out of the mix, demonstrating our inclusiveness was effective in growing our community.  Even with a strong committment to a culture, it is important to always make sure the culture is consistent with key values.

Restorative Justice stakeholders discuss program experience.

 Valentine’s Day 2012 was a good one!  Judges, court clerks, law enforcement, social workers, fellow nonprofit providers, clergy, attorney’s and victim advocates attended a stakeholder meeting hosted by SCVRJP.  (New website launched today – check it out!)

The panel speakers came from a variety of backgrounds and experiences with Restorative Justice.

Randy shared the experience of losing his daughter, after a drunk driver, only a month older, caused a crash that took her life.  We reached out to Randy, and only after his own reckless driving, and deferred prosecution, did he engage with SCVRJP.  He now continues to volunteer, continues to share the gut wrenching and painful story of life without Alyssa.

Mark, a probation agent, explained his interaction with Restorative Justice.  He provided a case example, where the former “all american-kid” with no record caused a traffic fatality.  The young man, the former all-american, still volunteers telling his story.  The agent verified the work and outcomes of Restorative Justice.

Local prosecutor shared how he uses the program, offers “carrots”, which I explained to others can look like a stick!

A community volunteer shared her experiences with SCVRJP and Restorative Justice.  She explained the connections between prevention, intervention and treatment of health issues.  She had examples at every level, Circles that provided successful outcomes with each.

A middle school counselor shared using Circles in school, to develop emotional connections for students.  A college student shared his experience, relating how a blackout resulted in frightening a community member.  He shared how meeting with the victim helped the victim, helped him.  He shared the meeting started a little tense, yet was helpful to both parties.  He also shared getting two hugs on arrival, one from the RJ facilitator and the other from the victim.

SCVRJP collected surveys on what works, what’s needed and other helpful comments.  The power in the meeting was some brainstorming about potential sessions.  We showed people what we do, when Randy shared part of his story.  Each speaker provided a different perspective, building on the evidence that Restorative Justice works.

I feel so blessed to get to work in a community program providing Restorative Justice.  SCVRJP has specialized in Restorative Justice Circles.  We are starting year 11 of serving our community and today, was a perfect celebration of a community coming together and finding healing, connection and prevention!

 

 

Living the mission, why a Restorative Justice nonprofit exists. When people do the right thing, it takes care of the future.

Email subject line: I really need some help

Email:  I attended a class at the Restorative justice center about 4 years ago for underage drinking. I am 23 years old now and have been trying to enlist in the military but my non-wise adolescent decisions are holding me back. I have jumped through many hoops to clear up my name and prove myself for the military. I need proof for my recruiter that I have completed an alcohol class otherwise I will not be able to enlist in the Army National Guard. I do not have any paperwork showing that I successfully completed a class with your program. I realize that it is my fault for not holding on to my documentation and I apologise for the inconvenience sincerely, but I am hoping that someone will be able to get back to me as soon as they can and help me get the proper documentation to accomplish a life goal. I am looking forward to hearing back from someone. This is very important to me. I just need to know how to find the proper paperwork. I am almost always available by phone but email is ok too.

I believe in the good of people, and I saw the responsibility in this email.  Mistakes should not permanently close doors for people.  This young man references a life goal and how important getting into the military is for him.  I know the benefits of the National Guard, I am aware of our military culture and climate right now.  This young man wants to serve his Country and our program has paperwork to help him.  I got to my garage and started to go through the dented file cabinet and the storage boxes.  My only lead was that he thought he attended on November 6, but was unsure of what year.  I found the documentation.

He was so happy, to hear the news.  He knew I was going to a box in my garage, he thought it would take a few weeks, not a few days.  He noted that the day he attended was his 19th birthday.  I told him he made a wise decision to spend his birthday at the Underage Consumption Panel.  He said it was a good class, he thanked me, told me this allows him to enlist. I asked his permission to write a blog post, and asked for more of his story.

He said at the time, he just thought it was a “stupid class” and now because he went he can enlist.  He’s a college student now, he comes from a family of military men, he found out that “screwing off was not working”.  He explained that when you are young, you don’t think your tickets are going to follow you.  He thought by the time you want a career or to go into the military it will just be forgotten.  He had positive things to say about our program, he mentioned seeing on our website that we take volunteers.  That opened the door, and I told him he was especially qualified to come to a Circle and share his perspectives.  I enclosed a volunteer application when I mailed him a copy of his verification.

He told me I made his day.  I told him he made mine.  He came to the class.  He confirms that people find the path, all the work of our volunteers, our staff, the agencies that refer youth to us, the victims who share stories and those that help in order to make amends.  They help SCVRJP live the mission.  You might make a lot of mistakes, but if you do the right thing, it can help you in the future.