Book Review by a fellow RJ practitioner & blogger

Lorenn and I got introduced by a response she had to a post on teen courts.  We have been emailing about writing an article together, and I’ve really enjoyed networking.  The internet, social networks certainly give us great opportunities to share ideas.  I found her book review very helpful, so I asked about posting it here.  The  direct link to her (Lorenn Walkers) Blog Post titled Dreams from the Monster Factory by Sunny Schwartz.  From the blog:

A new book Dreams from the Monster Factory by lawyer Sunny Schwartz with David Boodell has just been published by Simon & Schuster, Inc.  It is a short memoir of Ms. Schwartz’ life and her experience working at the San Francisco jail.

Under the leadership of San Francisco sheriff Michael Hennessey, jail’s director Michael Marcum, Lieutenant Becky Benoit, and Ms. Schwartz, who is the jail’s program director, restorative justice becomes part of the rehabilitation program at the jail.  Resolve to Stop the Violence Project (RSVP) has been evaluated and shown to reduced recidivism significantly more than the alternative (which was basically watching TV all day).

Violence is learned, and the RSVP program gives incarcerated people tools for un-learning it.  It is a public  health approach to this serious problem.

Schwartz’ book provides a moving account of the insanity of our prison system that now imprisons one out of every 100 people in the U.S. and, which can predict with sad certainty that almost 80% of those incarcerated people will be back in prison eventually.  And they will have learned much worse “monster” behavior everytime they are imprisoned.  RSVP is working to stop this crazy cycle.

The stories Schwartz tells touched my heart and had me in tears many times.  Including the story of Ben, a formerly vicious skin head, who beat blacks and Jews.  He willingly accompanies Schwartz to the Temple Sinai in Berkeley, and tells the congregation about the horrible things he did.  As he goes on to share his remorse and his desire to make amends, the people meet him with open hearts instead of more hate and resentment.

Schwartz wisely observes that “stories [can] bind broken people together, and help stitch up their wounds.”   This is an important power of restorative justice.  It allows people a voice to tell their stories and in doing so to heal.  Not only do the people harmed by wrongdoing heal, but the people who committed the bad acts, and the rest of the community too heals.

Schwartz includes the story of how she is able to heal too.  We all need healing.  We all face disappointments and perhaps the biggest one is that as wonderful as life can be, it eventually ends.  All the people we love, and all of us are going to die someday.  We can all use healing on a daily basis.

Schwartz’ book is inspiring.  It is a call for all of us to stand up and take responsibility for stopping the current prison system that endangers all our lives. As restorative justice teaches taking responsibility is a good thing, for individuals and for the whole world…

Blogging and Bookwriting – making progress


The photo:  Today I worked at home, and my cat sleeping on my bed, which is typically NEVER allowed was something different for me.  Just like hammering out over 3,00 words for the upcoming book On the Road Together:  Safe Teen Driving Circles.

I love blogging, it is something I get to do.  The blog is a constant work in progress, a growing resource.  Writing the book is something I have to do.  Ok not technically, I mean I WANT to write the book.  I want people to have another resource on how to do a certain type of Circle.  I want to spread the word and works of SCVRJP.  It’s a labor of love because a deadline is looming.

We got the funds from Allstate in May of 2008.  I need to have the manuscript to the editor by the first of March.

Briefly – May thru August – I did nothing on the book.  Didn’t even make an appointment or schedule time to do it.  Woke up from denial that if you don’t do it, it won’t get done.

Aug – Sept – reduced duties, resigned committee memberships and trained in an office staff person.  Started blog, trying to write something, better than nothing.  Hired a writing coach.  Got motivated.  Created a writing plan.

Sept-Dec– began writing.  Found road blocks, checking emails and doing laundry doesn’t increase the word count.  Developed the outline, started making progress.  Lots of reading and research to contribute.

Now this whole 8 months, I’ve been running a non-profit and holding a second job as a adjunct professor (only teaching one class).

Today I got over 3,000 words down.  Ready to add this to the 10,000+ I already have.  I’ve found my groove (today).  I break my book writing into 500 word blog posts.  So I made a list of “pseudo posts” (for the book) and I am working away.

Okay – – back to that!

Social Media and Restorative Justice – a personal experience!

I’ve become an evolving  fan of  ‘social media’  (Internet-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings). 

In May 2008, at the end of our class one of my college students set up a Facebook page for our class, that got me involved there.  Last Fall I started this blog.  I’ve recently started to Twitter, and we have a non-profit You Tube account in the works.

Now all of this . . . while managing SCVRJP and being a single parent!  Seems crazy I know, but the benefits are AMAZING!  Briefly listed:

1.)Professional skill development

2.)Expanded Networking

3.)21st Century relevent

Professional Skills:I got kicked off Facebook, well technically ‘deactivated’.  That’s a quirk about me, I can be proud of the things I should be ashamed of.  Actually not many people can say they’ve been deactivated and I blogged about it.  This promted learning on several levels.  I haven’t been deactivated since!

My writing skills have improved with my blogging.  My priorities and communication skills have improved as I have another outlet to articulate my views.

Expanded Networking:  From South Africa to Trinidad and Canada, I’ve got blog readers.  One Wednesday evening, daughter and I are at home watching tv, and I’m on my laptop to find 6 people have viewed my blog on Thursday!  That baffles the mind, people are already into a day that hasn’t started for us yet!  Talk about having an impact on the future!  Wow!  The networking can occur as I connect my blog posts to Facebook and LinkedIn.  So I write one post here and it can be read at my other social network sites.  I neglected a LinkedIn group and got back a few months later to find 11 people wanted to join my Restorative Justice Group!

21st Century Relevant:  So here is the wave of the future.  Social Media, social networking.  Being connected to events not because reporters are there, but because people with cell phones, and social networks update others.  I’m in love with Clay Shirky, so much this is a marriage proposal!  Clay, will you marry me?   His ideas are fascinating and refreshing!  I was seeing us in a disconnected world, and he helped me wonder how to use these times as an opportunity.  I just started his book and it is amazing.  I’m begining to really think about RJ applications in a social media context.

I was listening to public radio, hopped in the car mid conversation.  Some genius is talking about marketing research in one question:  Would you recommend this product/service to someone else.  Turns out it was Clay! 

So now, I’ve linked a marriage proposal in a blog to a 21st Century skill, hmmm.  Reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw last week:

“It is appallingly obvious our technology has exceeded our humanity”

  —Albert Einstein

Have a great day and thanks for reading!


“The Gift” Dr Sroka

Here is an email from Dr. Sroka, he presented an excellent keynote at the 2008 Heart of Successful Schools Conference.  He shared an idea called “The Gift”.  I posted about meeting him, and he followed up so I could share this here.steve-sroka-rgb-cropped

Hi Kris,
     Several attendees asked me to send the Gift message that I mentioned at the end of my closing keynote. Feel free to share it. Here it is:

The Gift
     Last holiday season, I sent out this idea. Responses were overwhelming and heartwarming. One SRO said it saved his marriage, a teacher thanked me because he gave it to his brother two weeks before he was accidentally killed in a car crash, and a student told me that her mother cried and said it was the best present she ever got.
     Some teachers used it as a writing prompt, and organizations shared it with their members. Several colleagues suggested that I send it again. Here it is. Please feel free to share this “gift” if you wish.

“I don’t want to die” letter- a gift your love ones will never throw away
     Think of the person(s) you love the most. Take out a piece of paper. Please, no computers. Use a pencil or pen. At the top of the paper, write:
     I don’t want to die, but if I do, I want you to know that …………………………………………………………………………………………
     In your own handwriting, tell the person what she or he means to you. What does she or he do that makes you laugh, and makes you cry? What are your dreams and fears for her or him? Express your love in a way that if you died, and could come back for only 3 minutes, what would you say? Then give her or him the letter. If you can, watch as the letter is read, since it will probably bring smiles and tears to both of your faces.
     This makes for a perfect holiday gift. It is one that you cannot buy, and one gift that will never be thrown away. It may be read again long after you are gone. It may even become part of your legacy.

     I hope you take some time this holiday season to tell the person you love how much she or he means to you. When I speak after a death in schools, I frequently hold crying survivors who tell me that they wished that they had told the person whom they loved, that they loved her or him before she or he had died. Sometimes, in life, you don’t get a last chance to tell them in person. Write the “I don’t want to die” letter today, because tomorrow may be too late.
     Peace, my friend, and warmest holiday thoughts, Steve

I have plans to do this, so I’ll let you know how it goes.  What POWERFUL questions for a Circle!

Have a great day!


Blogging as Networking

Great things come to those that blog. 

I like rearranging famous quotes. 

Really you blog to make your goals reality.  There are great stories out there.  This blogger Lisa went moved to Paris, got married, wrote a book!  She started blogging about being 40 & Single!

So my love of networking and the blog helps.  My goal, is to help other people, but the networking has happened.  Here are two examples!

1.)  negotiation law blog  posted a link on one of my posts, actually one of Catherine’s stories.  So all the readers of her award winning blog are seeing a link and one of my posts.  Way cool!  I left a thank you comment.

2.) Lorenn Walker posted a comment.  I am familiar with the name, after reading articles she’s written.   I finally took the time to check out her website, and have extended a ‘pracitioner’ interview invitation for this blog.  I see on her site she’s blogger, so I’m off to read that.

Networking, like healing . . . starts with a smile!

–have a great day!


I love to blog, I love you!

Hello again blog readers. 

Do you realized I don’t know a thing about you? 

Youare completely anonymous!  Sometimes you tell me who you are, a brief passing.  “Oh I’ve read some of your blog, you’re funny”.  You told me that as I was standing in front of your club, talking about non-profit management.  I know it’s not my parents reading this or even my kid reading this!  I keep trying to tell my college student, “post a comment”, so I’m not sure if they are reading this.  My writing coach might be, she said she’s using me a positive example.  How nice is that?  Maybe some of the readers are referred by her.  Who are you readers?  I’m glad your reading, I hope this blog is helpful!  It certainly helps me!

The blog title “I love to blog, I love you!”  Why do I love you?  Let me count the ways! 

1.) You bring more meaning to my experiences.  I’m single.  I live with my daughter and cat.  I should say ‘her cat’.  Although I feed, water, brush, give treats, and clean Olive’s cat box, she is completely enamoured with my daughter, not Me.  Although demographically the world is becoming more single, I feel very much a minority without a spouse.  I’ve also learned that my “fantasy mate” would listen attentively to every story I have.  He would be hanging on every word of every re-lived experience I get to tell him about.  I’ve learned it’s no good to wish for a mate that doesn’t exist.  It’s better to accept and embrace my singleness and make use of the stories I have.  Why share them with one man when you can tell the world?  In a blog of course!

2.)No matter what, wordpress/readers are always here. I love wordpress for having this wonderful blog hosting space.  Its easy to navigate, its got updates and features that improve over time.  Even though it cyber-space or electronic media, I get a good sense they have positive values.  Does that even make sense?  It’s warm, inviting and fuzzy at wordpress.  I feel connected to other wordpress bloggers and I like to just jump randomly from blog to blog.  With wordpress always here, readers are always here.  All I have to do is log on and I can see what’s happened on the blog.  The first thing I check (I wish I didn’t) are my “stats”  I like to see how many people have read the site.  I can see what posts were viewed and I can see if you clicked to an outside link. 

I wonder with my resumebeing the most viewed item, if everyone that views is a first time viewer.  Hmmm.  I guess eventually I figure that out.

3.) We have common ground.  I know that if you are reading this you care about Restorative Justice and/or Circles.  That makes a profound connection for me.  I really really love RJ/Circles, I find such deep fullfillment in doing this work and getting to be this person.  If you care a little about something so dear to me, then that makes us connected.  So if your reading this, you must care!

So three reasons to love anonymous blog readers is probably enough.  It’s giving me one of those “is this a reason to worry about myself” thought!  🙂

In peace and love! – – – Kris

Painters paint, bakers bake, writers write . . .

I have to blog today.  I’ve tried to do daily posts.  It’s not easy.  Today is a “have to blog” day.  Ever notice that what we want to do and have to do, make a difference in how much we actually enjoy the task?

I’ve learned SO much from blogging.  I’ve put my heart into this.  I didn’t realize that until a friend gave me the feedback.  I thought how true it is, because I throw myself completely into most projects.  So you don’t put your heart in without getting your head in the game.  I didn’t mean for this to happen with the blog project . . . I just wanted to get this resource going.

I’ve learned about “categories”.  You’ll see these on the “cloud”, I guess the more posts I put in a category the bigger that word gets.  It’s been a challenge for me to decide what categories I wanted.  I hope I can change these later. 

Pingbacks – that’s when I figure out how to link my posts to each other.   I think thats a good idea, shouldn’t these things connect together?  I’ve gotten nice feedback about my writing.  Wow, I didn’t know I was a writer.  I’ve always wanted to be a writer.

Thank goodness someone wrote that you should write, like you talk.  I like to talk.  So that advice led me here.  I learned and hope you learn from reading this . . . you don’t have to THINK you’re good at something to do it.  Just do it!  (thanks Nike!)

I read a few blogs on a regular basis, which was preparing me for launching my own.  This is the third or fourth try.  I studied what I wanted to do, and I still do.  I just found a tip about adding a “picture of the week”.  Since Sunday is my tip of the week day, I’ll do a picture of the week on Wednesday.  See how easy this is?

It’s been a process to go from, a secret journal to not knowing who the 54 people that looked at the blog last Wednesday.  I waited until I felt like I had enough on the blog, before I talked about it.  Now I talk about it all the time.  At first I felt awkward about saying “my blog”.  Recently I had to type “our blog” referring to SCVRJP.  I’ve asked my students to make comments, just so I’d have some comments!

It’s been great having people in another County make comments and knowing that students and teachers in Texas will be given the site.  I hope our stories grow and this resource is valuable to many many people.

Bloggers blog . . . I just blogged my way thru a little blogging block!  I do love this, turns out it doesn’t matter if I have to, need to, or want to!

Peace – Kris