I did a small group presentation and allowed all participants to ask a question. We did a little “reverse” talking piece, meaning they could ask the question, and pass on the piece when they felt they had the answer. I got a very unexpected question, and some information I didn’t really have a perspective about. I have been mulling it over and now I have my “ah-ha” about it.
The ah-ha, teachable piece here is about being with people that helps them find things out about themselves. The unexplained piece of pre-conferencing or pre-circle-ing has some words now. When you meet with people to prepare them to do restorative justice, regardless of what angle they approach it from (victim or offender) there is a way to do it. It is an art, not a science. Science needs things to measure, the soul (art) needs the experience. I think being an explorer of inner landscapes is the skill.
Our inner landscape is the way we respond to things on the outside, based on what is going on inside of us. The unseen responding to a situation, incident, circumstance. As a restorative justice pracitioner you have to some how get each perspective out in the open in a way that people show their unseen experiences. The restorative justice questions are designed to do this. The questions are the science and the facilitator is the art.
Time and time again a victim will relate an earlier crime, similar to the current one we are preparing to address. I tap into this and explore with the person how they experienced that. A restorative dialogue then can become empowering to the victim, as they are given a chance to address both the current and the past issues. This often proves to be a helpful teacher for the offender.
I did a conference where a young man did a hit and run, he was intoxicated and worried about additional consequences so he left the scene of the accident. The vicitm, although not seriously injured in this crash, had 20 years earlier been in a crash, again a drunk driver. The victims injuries were still very obvious, it appeared he had a stroke and his left side did not function. These were injuries from the 1st crash, where the drunk driver died. When we held the conference it was just a day or two from the anniversary of the first crash, the victim even brought a newspaper clipping. In addition to getting to explain how he was impacted the victim actually did the offender a favor by sharing a story of a similiar tragedy, that hit home because the offender had done the same behavior.
Opening up and sharing our inner or unseen perspectives requires the practitioner to make safe space for this. Please set up the Circle or Conference as carefully and with as much intention and preparation as possible. Reflective questions, compassionate listening and being a compass for people is necessary. Helping people examine the inside and construct experiences that provide healing and transformation are crucial skills for a restorative justice practitioner.
The question I was mulling over? The one that brought this understanding? I was asked about how I write such “intensely personal blogs”. I didn’t really even think that I did! (Well that one time a friend said I write in my blog what she writes in her journal!) What got me thinking about it was the disconnect that I had between my own perception and the perception of others. I can hear that same friend saying “duhhh” to me about not thinking I was personal in my blogs! So maybe that disconnect was denial!
At any rate, as I examined myself for my own comforts in sharing my unseen, and inner landscapes, I realized that it’s part of the restorative justice practitioner skill set, FOR ME. Not everyone needs to be this way. My way, just gave insight to something for people to think about when they facilitate restorative justice. If it can help someone be a better practitioner then I am willing to share about.