Campus Restorative Justice as a community non-profit.

I feel in love with Restorative Justice in the late 90’s.  The first training left me a bit confused, maybe I should say “challenged”.  At that time, I was working from a place of ego than compassion.  I saw the families on my caseload as very different from me.  I was missing the basic humanity and the fact that we are all interconnected (click to tweet).  I put a wedge/distance between us because I hadn’t yet faced many of my own pains.  It is our suffering connects us the quickest (tweet).  Last night in Circle, as soon as someone opened up, “went there” and shared about a harm, the rest of the Circle members became more engaged, more open.  I feel far more effective as a “helper” these days than back in the late 90’s.  THANK YOU IIRP for bringing that first training session to town!  Thank you the State of Minnesota for implementing a Restorative Justice Planner!

It is not the 90’s anymore.  I’ve seen trends come in, tried to understand where they came from what was intended.  Some very good, like the expansion of Restorative Justice to college campus.  Some concerning for example, blueprint layouts for a prison called Restorative Justice (visiting areas designed to be circular).  Some changes are needed, as Restorative Justice learned, shifted, grew, it became more defined.  Teen Court is not Restorative Justice and we need to put each on a clear path and not co-mingle the two.

Campus programs, like community, school or prison programs of Restorative Justice can start from many places.  Sometimes a pressing need appears and Restorative Justice is brought in.  In some instances, the shift in addressing student misconduct is evaluated and a new way emerges, the new way selected is Restorative.  Restorative Justice in all areas (not just campus)  works best when designed for 3 areas.  The first to focus on the community culture over all, Circles to connect – reaffirm relationships, the second for at-risk places or where we need to rebuild relationships, and finally when a wrong-doing has occurred, Circles to repair-relationships.

The story of St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (SCVRJP)- and our local campus University of Wisconsin River Falls, has all of the elements I mentioned above.  SCVRJP has been called upon to come and facilitate for community building.  Specifically with Destination students – teaching the tool of Circle Keeping – to trip leaders.  Service learning has a component of reflection.  Circles make great containers for this type of deep reflection.  They especially help students cross-pollinate the good in each other.

SCVRJP and UWRF have worked side by side to address specific harms on campus.  We’ve taken referrals and worked with students who experienced conflict.  SCVRJP responded when a student died on campus, we held a Circle to support and grieve together.  Students use to pass into the criminal justice system from campus, mostly for underage consumption.  Now, the campus housing policy, sends them directly to SCVRJP.  Not only has this has brought fewer appearances in court, an officer was quoted in saying few incidents of passed out students on campus.

Our local non-profit provides students a service learning site, internships, we speak at campus programming.  After a few semesters off, I am back to teaching a class on campus.  Budget cuts and financial adjustments caused the break.

So now, SCVRJP is seeing more campuses represented at our training sessions!  Housing staff, student responsibility leaders from different campuses and programs are coming to the two-day Circle Training.  Many campuses are developing internal programs each designed to suit the needs of their campus.  We’ve provided training specifically to campus staff and are available to contract for training events.

The housing professionals from the ATCCHA schools who attended the October 28, 2011 professional development session at the University of Wisconsin – River Falls found the presentation by Kris Miner of the St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Center to be professional, informative and enlightening.  Kris did an excellent job of sharing information not only on the tenants of restorative justice, but how it can be applied and utilized by student conduct administrators.  Staff in attendance felt that the presentation met the need they had to learn more about this topic.

Sandi Scott Duex, Director of Residence Life/Student Rights & Responsibilities University of Wisconsin – River Falls