Longmont Community Justice Partnership is currently seeing a pronounced upswing in theft cases. The vast majority of these cases involve juvenile offenders, kids under 18 and are tarteting businesses as opposed to a particular person. One thing that is not commonly known is that almost half of the Longmont Police Department’s calls for service are for shop-lifting. While the juvenile justice system logs a number of offenses at this time of year from cyber bullying to trespassing, vandalism and interpersonal conflicts --of great concern is the upswing of theft cases among this demographic. A question that we hear over and over again relates to how the community is impacted by someone’s decision to shoplift. There is of course financial impacts to everyone as stores must raise prices to cover the value of lost merchandise. Another effect of a youth’s decision to shoplift is on the reputation of juveniles as a whole. How many of us have walked into a store and paid special attention to the group of teenagers roaming around? When one teenager steals, it affects the reputation of all of the youth in our community, something that our youth community members so eloquently express in our conferences. Restorative Justice addresses not only on the measurable monetary impacts but also on these personal relational effects of crime as well.
It might come as a surprise to many that I stepped into the ED role at LCJP without having an extensive background in restorative justice or restorative practices. Formally that is. In the last several months I have come to appreciate my unique background and skill set that seems to be a natural fit for the RJ community. That revalation has come in handy when relating to others that have the same thoughts, "What is this Restorative Justice stuff I've been hearing about?" and "Tell me more!".
So many of us apply restorative practices to our jobs and our lives without realizing it. The fundamental premise of restorative practices is that people are happier, more cooperative and productive, and more likely to make postitive changes when those in authority do things with them, rather than for them.
I have come to find out the use of restorative practices helps to:
- reduce crime, violence and bullying
- improve human behavior
- strengthen civil society
- provide effective leadership
- restore relationships
- repair harm
I have found new tools to work with my own family and social network as well as apply a few that I innately embraced without the thought of positive results. LCJP's work with juvenile offenders, interpersonal conflict, victim offender mediation, practical applications for school safety, and now our re-entry program that focuses on parolees entering the community brings a great deal of contrast and opportunities for the community and the network of professionals in the juvenile justice system.
I am excited to explore new concepts with restorative justice programs and revel in the history of teaching peace!
I was involved in a restorative justice (RJ) case a while back where some young people damaged and defaced a neighborhood's property. Here in Longmont, CO the police have the option to divert offenders through our RJ process instead of sending them through the courts, IF the offenders are willing to take responsibility for their actions.
When offenders are first asked, "who do you think was harmed or affected by your actions", they typically identify the person that was victimized but see no one else as a harmed party. One of the powerful things about the RJ process is that it can open the mind of an offender to understand that many others were indeed affected by their actions.
One of the offending youngsters gained this realization. The pre-conference and the RJ circle gave him the opportunity to understand that he had broken a bond of trust with his parents, his reputation with others was negatively affected, and families in the surrounding area that previously thought the neighborhood was safe, were now rethinking if they should let their young children play outside. None of these realities were in his mind when he committed the offense.
There were also others impacted, but the young man now understood that a careless action had affected a lot of people that he hadn't thought about. The RJ process is about taking responsibility for your actions, repairing harms to affected people and learning how to make better decisions in the future.
The criminal justice approach doesn't provide these important learning opportunities and rarely changes behaviors. Check out http://www.lcjp.org and see how our community is making a difference.
There is a powerful article about how restorative justice is helping kids at-risk in Oakland, California. It's a short article that shows how restorative justice can make a positive impact. While we'd all agree that there are a lot of differences between our Longmont, Colorado community and Oakland, the same kind of struggles exist for kids everywhere.
Bullying, fights, and all kinds of conflicts arise in every school. The historical way to deal with kids in conflict was to suspend or expel them, but as the article describes, doing so can simply move the conflict off the school property where it can escalate and become more dangerous. Anyone who's ever been bullied can remember the bully telling them, "wait till I catch you after school." This remark usually occurred right after a teacher told the offender to, "go to the principle's office!"
Restorative justice can keep incidents from escalating into something more severe by getting the kids to talk about what's happening and how people are being affected. Communicating within a safe environment and understanding the implications and harms of an action creates a learning opportunity that can stay with a young person for the rest of their life. Suspending or expelling the youngsters eliminate that learning opportunity.
Our jobs as parents, grandparents and teachers are to help our children learn to make good decisions. Are we doing everything we can to make sure that restorative justice is part of our school's DNA? Check out Restorative Practices in Schools and become an advocate.
The Art of Apology
Dedicated to the facilitators and volunteers of Restorative Justice,
A new evolution for change for our youthful offenders- our future.
By Linda Leary, May, 2005
I’m sorry, I’m sorry; I know I truly am.
Tell me, sir, just one more time just what it is I’ve done?
And remind me, please, what I’m to say
So I can go have fun?
I think I know where things are going.
I think I get the drift.
And if I show you my remorse,
My life, will it then shift?
Who are these people all in circle
Come to hear me talk?
Must I tell them how I feel
Before they let me walk?
Suddenly the questions start,
My mind it gets confused.
The honest sharing, and the truth,
My heart, it feels quite bruised.
This is not at all what I had thought.
It is much worse in fact.
It’s safe in here and there’s support,
Is this what’s called impact?
The people treat me like I’m real,
And I really want to try.
The circle looks into my eyes,
I think I’m going to cry.
How do I say I’m sorry now
While locked up in my tower?
How do I say it with my heart
To truly give it power?
What do I say to the people here
Before the day is through,
That I feel the truth deep in my gut
Of the harm to me and you?
I say again those simple words
Spoken earlier that day.
With broken heart and trembling lips,
Please, help me find my way.
If you have been inspired by this poem to take action, CLICK HERE to become a volunteer with LCJP.
Stepping into Leadership - How Restorative Justice changed my Life - By former High School Student Savannah Iverson (3 of 3)
Third and final in Savannah's series, continues here... Over the last year, my goals in life have changed a bit as well. I still want to be a therapist and help kids, but I have expanded on my vision about how that could work. I would love to do something with RJ because I feel like my skills and the RJ principles match really well. I would love to do something with drama and acting.
I feel so much more confident in the skills that I have now, especially in my acting and facilitating. I also really want to travel. I have been bitten by the travel bug and everyone knows it! That’s how much I’ve been talking about it recently! If I could have it my way right now through my career eyes, I would mash everything up into one.
I would like to have my MA in psychology, possibly have my own business that has to do with therapy but also incorporate the skills and principles of RJ into my practice. I would be an active member in an RJ program, do photography as a hobby outside of work and I would be out in the real world performing in big plays. I also hope to travel as much as I can—seeing Ireland is definitely the first stop.
As you can see, RJ has really helped me grow and become a better person. I live by the RJ principles as much as I can, knowing I am still a teenager. I do everything with a positive attitude and I do it with pride. I would really encourage anybody who has an interest in peace making, helping the community, being a leader in the face of conflict or changing the world, to knock on your local Restorative Justice door and get involved! It could be a life changing move…but the choice is up to you.
15 year old Longmont High Sophomore, LHS Restorative Justice Student Team Facilitator, Actress, Aspiring Therapist and Traveler... Savannah Iverson.
For more information on fhe LCJP Student Team ( Click Here ).
Stepping into Leadership - How Restorative Justice changed my Life - By former High School Student Savannah Iverson (2 of 3)
Continued from previous post, an embedded report from the throws of high school, with our voice from the field, and LHS restorative justice team member and facilitator, 15 year old Savannah Iverson...
When talking to authority figures in my personal life, I feel like I know how to handle conflicts that arise between us better than before. I can be respectful and clear in expressing myself even when I am upset. I am better than I used to be at seeing things from all the different perspectives. I’m not perfect by any means…I am still a teenager with challenging emotions…
I have also noticed that my confidence has increased immensely. When I am sitting in circles, I present a calm, confident exterior. I give off a sense that I know what I am doing, and the circle runs smoothly. The more experience, practice and confidence I have, the better the process turns out. When working with adults, I have the confidence to express myself well so that adults will understand and relate to what I am saying. I have been a spokesperson for teenagers a lot this year when I am talking to people about the program and my role as a facilitator or mediator. I have presented at the Healthy Youth Alliance, the Truancy Taskforce, Leadership Forum at LHS, Longmont City Youth Council, and Gang Response Intervention and Prevention (GRIP) meetings. I have also done a radio interview for a Longmont radio station.
I am calmer when I present. Before high school, I would refuse to get up in front of a crowd, or if I had to, I would stumble on my words or I would freeze and no words would come out. But now, I feel good about my presentation skills. I still stumble over words sometimes, but I take a moment of recovery time and after that I do not stumble over my words as much. Altogether, I am less anxious about presenting now. For the most part, I do not even get nervous about it anymore. I am certain that my words will come out clearly, but when I am not sure what to say, I feel okay to take a second and collect my thoughts before continuing, instead of stumbling through it and having no one understand. Considering how many times I have presented on the RJ team—through circles, interviews, and presentations—I feel much more confident on talking in front of people.
I have also seen some changes in my class work as well. I have always had a really good connection with teachers and school—not only because I am a good kid and I stay out of trouble, but also because I do get along well with adults. My previous teachers have told me how much I have changed and how much confidence I have built up. My teachers recognize that I can do anything I set my mind to. In classes at the beginning of the year, I was quiet and did not raise my hand too often even if I knew the answer. However, toward the end of the year, I was more active and participating more. I have more fun in class because I became more open. I am still able to get along with almost all of my teachers.
I have noticed this year, as well as everything else, that my work ethic and motivation have improved. I am much more willing to do bigger projects and advanced RJ cases. I am more determined than I was before. I follow through on what I say I am going to do and what I am asked to do. I am paying attention to how to be more professional. I am figuring out how to incorporate my interests into a job that is important to me. I am more determined than I was before to get a job, and give 100% at everything I do.
For more information on the LCJP Student Team (Click Here).
Stepping into Leadership - How Restorative Justice changed my Life - By former High School Student Savannah Iverson (1 of 3)
What you're about to read in this blog article, is a little about how I have changed over the past year, after joining the Restorative Justice (RJ) student team. I joined the team the summer before freshman year. First though, let me give a brief description of the Longmont High School RJ Team. We are a team of roughly 20 student facilitators that practice Restorative Justice in 3 schools in the SVVSD. It’s a program run by student facilitators for students in conflict.
Before I went into my freshman year of High School, I was very shy and conservative and I tried to keep out of the spotlight. I really just wanted to stay out of the way of everybody, and just get the feel of high school before I jumped into anything. But I slowly started seeing things change as the year went on, and I started becoming more involved with the RJ program.
Before I joined the RJ team, I often played supporting roles—whether it was in drama, basketball or even group projects in class. I didn’t really want to speak out or be the leader. I would rather just sit back unless I really needed to. After I joined and started being a more active member, I noticed that I automatically took on that leadership role, and I feel confident that I am a good leader. I feel like I know what I am doing, and I recognize what needs to happen and figure out what needs to be done. I am able to analyze the situation better, and think about different outcomes. I am really good at giving options, soliciting feedback from my peers and making sure that everyone has a voice and say. As a group, we usually end up finding a good outcome, and the group as a whole decides what is best. It’s extremely similar to a circle process, the wisdom of the group is really important.
When getting to LHS Freshman year, not really knowing what to expect, I stayed around what I knew the best, which was RJ because I did my trainings over the summer and I sat in quite a few circles from the community program. Within the first two weeks of school, I was already Co-facilitating, and leading connection circles at team meetings. I really didn’t spend much time as a community member, but instead moved straight into facilitating. Team facilitating was really good for me because I got to work with other people, I got the opportunity to observe how they lead the circle and learn from their skills, and start to practice how I could use them. One of the things that I learned to do really well was to ask good follow-up questions to get a better understanding of the story that is being told. I learned to handle heightened emotions from the referred student and their parents. I also learned how to manage my own anxiety in the face of that. I feel like I am more confident at upholding ground rules, keeping things respectful, carefully and skillfully naming the challenging behavior and switching back to respecting and following the ground rules.
I have noticed that my ability to talk to many different types of people has increased. Before freshman year, I knew how I was “supposed” to communicate, but now I feel more confident in using the communication skills that I have naturally. I am much better at working with parents, modulating my tone and learning to switch between talking to adults and kids. I have a better understanding how to be more professional, and I am better at recognizing emotions, small signals and body language. I know how to relate to people of all ages, I have become more of an active listener and knowing what that entails. When I speak, my thoughts are more organized and clear, and I try to use "I Statements" as much as possible but that is still a work in progress, because that really is not always an easy thing to do.
For more information on the LCJP Student Team (Click Here)
In Longmont, LCJP works to try to reduce the number of men and woman who end up in prison by offering the opportunity for victims and offenders to come together to participate in the restorative justice process. Many times harms can be repaired between the victim and the offender in this process, but not always.
Our program is effective because we have the support of the police department, court system, as well as the prison and jail system.
Participation in restorative justice is optional for both the victim and the offender. If he or she chooses not to move forward with the RJ process, or fails to complete his or her agreement in the allotted time, there has to be a consequence, and sometimes that consequence is a stay in prison.
Those who don’t take advantage of the restorative justice process when it is first offered might be exposed to it when they are on the other side of the bars. It is also being used in conjunction with reentry programs for inmates leaving the prison system.
The article below illustrates how transformative the restorative justice process can be for those behind prison walls.
Hello my name is Caitlyn, and I am going into my senior year. This is my third year on the Student Restorative Justice (RJ) Team and I’m trained as a Solution Circle Facilitator, Restorative Mediator, Youth Community Member, and Connection Circle Leader. I joined the Student RJ Team because I like to help people figure out challenges they face and guide them in solving their own problems. Over my time on the team I have learned how differences make our team stronger. By recognizing our differences, we are able to value our relationships more, which makes our RJ Processes stronger as well.
To help build these strong team relationships we go on a retreat every summer dedicated to team building, relationship strengthening activities, learning about what Restorative Justice in schools means and seeing how it is used on the team and in RJ Processes. We left our school around 8 o'clock and headed up to Calwood Education Center, a learning center in the mountains. Even though the bus ride was short, it was time well spent--everyone socialized and got better acquainted with their RJ teammates. After the bus ride, we hiked up to the lodge where we began with opening remarks, background about the team and getting-to-know you games that focused on commonalities and differences. These games were built around the first of our five foundational principles: Relationship, Respect, Responsibility, Repair and Reintegration. Relationship is very important to RJ because instead of identifying how laws have been broken, we focus on how the relationships between people have been affected and allow for equal voice for all parties. On our team, relationship means being able to rely on teammates for support, input on issues we face as a team (i.e.-conflict between two team members or bullying in school), and problem solving of challenging case. In circles it means building and repairing relationship between referred students and harmed parties, youth and adults, SROs and our broader school community.
My favorite game was called "In the River, In the Grass”, a variation of Simon Says. I liked this game because it was active and we got to be goofy with each other without the fear of being laughed at in a mean way. We also played several name games and activities on building our commonalities, building strong bonds and relationships, while getting to know about each other and Restorative Justice made the day fun--a key part of RJ and the focus of this retreat. Want to know more about what we do? Check out the LCJP website!
Student Facilitators Lead Advanced Restorative Justice Process Referred by Longmont Police Department
I recently had the chance to sit in an advanced restorative justice process in the role of community member with Ollin Montes and Priscilla Chacon as facilitators. Ollin just graduated from Niwot High School and Priscilla will be a Senior at Longmont High School in the fall.
Both students had recently completed an advanced facilitator training with LCJP a couple of weeks prior, and this was their first opportunity to try out their new skills.
Their job was to facilitate a conversation between three middle school boys who had gotten into a fight. In an advanced process, there is no clear victim or offender, which makes the job of facilitation more difficult.
This case was referred by the police officer who intervened in the fight, and would have otherwise been handled by the court system. Ollin and Priscilla were able to earn the respect of the adults in the group, which included the parents of the boys and a police officer, and at the same to speak to the 3 middle school boys at their own level. Throughout the process they called on youth community member, Claire , to talk about the impact of fighting and bullying in the Longmont Community. She spoke with great clarity and wisdom that few adults would be able to bring this type of conflict resolution process.
Ollin did a masterful job of guiding the conversation while Priscilla tracked how each member of the group was impacted by the actions of the boys. Midway through the process, Priscilla took on the job of guiding the members of the circle through the creation of individual contracts for each of the boys.
In a country where we often hear concerns about the values of our youth, it is inspiring to witness students such as Ollin, Priscilla, and Claire step into leadership roles not only in their schools, but in their broader community.
Some recent bills in Colorado have opened the door wider for reforming our juvenile and adult justice systems. Check out this article to read about a new law taking effect in Colorado that creates a State level position for a restorative justice coordinator and gives almost every juvenile the opportunity to take advantage of restorative justice. There is another recent bill that eliminates the zero-tolerance policy in Colorado Schools that can create a school to jail-track for youngsters.
It is becoming clearer to Colorado parents, school administrators, city police, district attorneys and others that a one size fits all justice system gets poor results. Restorative justice is getting traction because it delivers a lower reoffense rate for juveniles and adults that get into trouble. This keeps kids in school, adults and juveniles out of jail, saves money and supports a stronger community.
People reoffend at a much lower rate when they see themselves as being in a relationship with others. That relationship can be between a student and their classmates or school, or any individual in a marriage, job, or living in a community. Once you recognize the importance of a particular relationship, you're probably willing to take responsibility for your action. While doing so is not always easy it pays big dividends for everyone involved.
Restorative justice leverages things like relationships, responsibility and respect to get people to look at harms that were done (not laws broken) and identify how to repair the harms so the relationship can be repaired and things can be made right. Juveniles and adults going through this process and completing their obligations almost always make better decisions in the future. Better decisions contribute to keeping people out of jail and students in school as opposed to being suspended or expelled.
Longmont Community Justice Partnership is one of our nation's leading practitioners of restorative justice. Learn more and get involved!
So is there a better way to do justice than what we have today? The answer in my mind is clearly YES! Check out this video and learn why even the state of Texas is pursuing alternative approaches to justice, because the current approach is NOT working.
Now what do you think?
The evidence keeps mounting that using restorative justice practices in schools and communities works and pays big dividends to everyone. Longmont, Colorado has one of the finest examples of a restorative justice program that is managed by the Longmont Community Justice Partnership(LCJP). Adults and youth that make poor decisions in that community are often given the opportunity by the police department to go the restorative route as opposed to the criminal justice route. Of course this requires the individual to take responsibility for their actions and be willing to explore who they affected and how so that the harms can be repaired.
The big dividend I mentioned earlier to the community is that the overwhelming majority of people that go through LCJP's restorative circle do not reoffend. In fact the reoffense rate in Longmont has been only 7% the last two years. Remember what the reoffense rate from the video was?
What is really impressive is that LCJP does this tremendous work primarily with volunteers from the community. While there are a few paid staff people, almost all the restorative circle processes are facilitated and supported by trained volunteers. The police department wants LCJP to handle more cases because they have seen the value of the restorative circle in the crime statistics and through their participation in the process.
LCJP needs more volunteers and they need more funding to support other restorative actions that the community is asking them to do. Won't you check out their website and get involved.
In the past I've written about some differences between the Criminal Justice System (CJS) and Restorative Justice. You may not realize that the differences in process and approach deliver very different results, so let's explore some of these.
Did you know that the national rate of recidivism (or re-offense) for people going through the CJS is as much as 70%, while the average of those going through a Restorative Justice Process is typically 10%. First time I saw those statistics I was blown away. An even better statistic in my mind are the satisfaction ratings I’d be willing to bet that 90% of the people participating in a CJS process, whether victims, offenders or any party with a vested interest in the process are NOT satisfied with the experience or final outcome.
The reason for that is usually because very few people have a voice in the CJS process. Victims rarely get to express the hurt they feel and all the emotional damage that may have been done to them, and the rest of the community that may have been affected never get to tell their story. This doesn't sound like a very satisfying experience does it?
Here at the Longmont Community Justice Partnership in 2011, we had a 97% satisfaction rating by all participants. That means, victims, offenders, community members and police officers were satisfied with the results. Couple that with a 7% recidivism rate in 2011 and you have to agree that Restorative Practices work. See what Mike Butler our Police Chief and Boulder County's DA Stan Garnett says about LCJP.
If restorative practices work in our community they will work in yours. What are you doing to bring Restorative Justice into your community?
I'm pretty happy that my town, Longmont Colorado, was recognized as the second happiest city in the U.S. It was also just a year ago that Longmont was identified as the second safest city in Colorado. Our Police Chief Mike Butler said that a safe community is the result of community involvement. The Longmont Community Justice Partnership's (LCJP) mission statement in part reads, "To create a safe and caring community and reduce crime... creating justice for all."
LCJP's success is built on restorative justice (RJ) principles that work to identify who was harmed in an incident and how do we repair those harms and make things right . LCJP has implemented restorative justice in schools that trains students in restorative practices to deal with bullying in school, the myriad of interpersonal conflicts that occur as well as many other situations. The power of this approach is that offending student's classmates are helping to solve these problems and not relying on the hierarchy of administrators and teacher to keep the peace.
In our Longmont community, both youth and adults are frequently given the restorative justice alternative by our police department instead of being put through the courts and criminal justice system. 97% of the people going through this process are happy with the results and we find that fewer than 10% of those individual re-offend. Getting a second chance to make better decisions in the future is what is frequently identified by parents of kids as well as others going through the RJ process that makes them glad they live in Longmont.
Yep, I think LCJP does add to the "happy" factor as well as contributing to a safe and caring community. Come on, join the RJ team and get happy!
The debate about police officers in schools has grown in intensity over the past few months since the Newtown shooting. At Longmont Community Justice Partnership, we are lucky to partner with School Resource Officers (SRO) in our Restorative Practices in Schools program and with the Longmont Police Department in the Community Restorative Justice program. As I read articles like this one in the Guardian about students being arrested for spraying perfume in class or shouting at a teacher, I am even more thankful for the SROs that work in our schools. Both pilot school SROs and the entire Longmont SRO Program are incredibly supportive of restorative justice, recognizing it as another tool to add to their toolbox.
Over the past three years, the pilot school SROs have participated in 80% of the cases they have referred to RJ—not only as referring agents, but also as representatives of the school and community. Both have supported students in completing their RJ agreements by providing them with information, supplies, connections, or a mentor. When they participate in circle processes, it is not uncommon to hear statements like: “I don’t want to criminalize teenage behavior,” or “As a father of two girls, I worry about the way disrespect has become normalized,” or “My biggest concern in this case is that as an officer my job is to make sure everyone here at school is safe, and when assaults happen in the halls, I am not able to do that,” or “I have a 7th grade granddaughter, and if this fight had happened at her school, I would be worried about her safety. It makes me question what my granddaughter has to deal with on a daily basis.” Their training in restorative language and interventions allows them to operate from the perspective of recognizing when crime or conflict occurs on school grounds, relationships and people are affected—it is not just about the law or rule that was broken. Often times the first extended interaction referred students have with the SRO at their school is a restorative conversation about who was affected by their choices. During the Assets Phase of the circle process—where we share the strengths and capacities of the referred student as a way of recognizing that they are a person and not a behavior; to shape an agreement that is tailored to their strengths, increasing ownership and follow through; and to avoid the shameful or punitive experience of sanctions being handed down without consideration of their circumstances and capacities which leads to lower rates of recidivism—the SROs often supplement the strengths of the referred student with observations they have made about them or shining examples of things they have done well in the past, building stronger relationships that last beyond the confines of the RJ process.
In addition to their participation in RJ cases as referring agents and community members, the SROs provide mentoring and support for the Student RJ Team as well as staff and the student body. In his Police Academy class, the high school SRO began the semester leading Connection Circles, a restorative practice, asking the students questions about their perceptions of police officers. Both pilot school SROs participate in the yearly Student RJ Team retreat as an opportunity to break down barriers between youth and adults and do teambuilding. The middle school SRO makes strong recommendations during recruitment every year, and has encouraged students who normally would not be put in leadership roles to participate. Sometimes that vote of confidence is just the boost a student needs to get on the right track; sometimes it is the first time this student has ever been given positive reinforcement. Both pilot school SROs are advocates and champions of RJ in their buildings: educating school personnel, helping parents recognize the value of it, and supporting students in making better future choices.
The key to school safety lies not in having more police officers in schools, but having the right police officers in schools. The RPS program is fortunate to work with such skilled, compassionate, intelligent, dedicated and incredible SROs. Their model of student-centered policing in partnership with the schools and community organizations is one that should be replicated—not only for the sake of the students who form trusting relationships with these officers, but also to provide a balanced approach to this heated debate.
Last weekend I attended the advanced facilitator training offered through the Longmont Community Justice Partnership. The training was incredibly valuable and skillfully taught by Amy Stenson and Deb Witzel. Some of the highlights from the training were gaining more insight into complex situations where mutual responsibility is shared.
This could arise in many different forms, for example there could be youth who is being bullied at school and when the youth who is doing the bullying is confronted about this issue it becomes clear that there is a long-standing history of conflict between the two youths.
This conflict could benefit from a restorative justice circle. In order for the circle to move forward, all parties would need to take responsibility for their part in the situation. Learning how to navigate these complex, often historical conflicts, is something that Longmont Community Justice Partnership can teach. If you are interested in learning how to practice restorative justice please check out the upcoming trainings: www.lcjp.org/training
Longmont Community Justice Partnership is honored to have guest blogger Molly Rowan Leach share her thoughts with us!
Restorative Justice is indeed on the rise
There is an exponential recognition in the United States that Restorative justice is very much on the rise. Of course there are many pioneers in the modern field spanning decades and ranging from Indigenous to those in peripheral communities worldwide, to academics and committed citizens. In the United States we are seeing a huge rise in media surrounding the movement and case examples showing how Restorative justice works, even in violent cases such as the one that NCCD’s (National Council on Crime and Delinquency) Sujatha Baliga helped facilitate in Florida involving the case of murder victim Ann Grosmaire. We also see a lot of great webinar opportunities such as the ones offered by the Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice at EMU; IIRP’s regular offerings; and many other very accessible virtual seminars and trainings worldwide and accessible online.
One of the virtual International Dialogue Councils that focuses on Restorative Justice is called Restorative Justice on The Rise, co-sponsored by The Peace Alliance. Restorative Justice on The Rise is a weekly free ongoing series, every Thursday at 5pmPST/8EST, and has been in place for two years. It has featured compelling conversations with pioneers and constituents worldwide including Colorado and LCJP’s own Deb Witzel, Officer Greg Ruprecht from the Longmont Police Department, Howard Zehr, Arun Gandhi, Dominic Barter, Kay Pranis, Sujatha Baliga, Dr. Johan Galtung, Michelle Alexander and many others. The point of this ongoing series is to include the voices of all council members who skype, webcast, or dial in to the live council, and to engage with a wide spectrum of international guest speakers. It also hopes to support the great local, national, and global work of the many people who are in the field, and to provide a platform for education, resources, and important dialogue. Please join us every Thursday at 5pmPST/8EST. The month of May features dialogues with Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz and Mark Umbreit, among others. We will also be broadcasting through the summer as part of the International Web Series “Summer of Peace”, hosted by The Shift Network and many global programs and organizations in various fields of peacebuilding and justice work.
Given that so much is happening via the web and media in the rise of restorative justice, some key and defining points that appear to be universal are coming up.
Some of those leading-edge explorations are:
· The importance of being clear about what Restorative Justice really is.
· The importance of looking at the long span of human history for examples of how it has worked, including but not limited to our Indigenous, and those in the peripherals of our “civilized” societies such as the Favelas of Rio
· The current need for statistical evidence that shows what many of us already know—that restorative justice saves money both in present and projected expenditures and significantly lowers recidivism while showing high satisfaction rates for many involved.
· The importance of retaining the essence of restorative justice in systemic transformation
· Some tendency to make a synonym out of restorative justice and forgiveness.
· The importance of ensuring Victim safety and continuing to emphasize that this is a key element of restorative justice. And how to continue to clearly communicate both the latter and the benefits that can potentially be a factor for victims and all involved.
· Dispelling the myth that restorative justice “has no teeth”.
There are surely more universal questions in this moment. Please share your thoughts and ideas.
Also, If you have guest speaker ideas or would like to submit a proposal to be a guest speaker yourself on Restorative Justice on The Rise, we’d be delighted to hear from you. The series is focused on your work and devotion to this very important time we are amidst as it concerns the huge transformation happening in justice and beyond.
Your colleague in Restorative Justice,
Molly Rowan Leach
Multimedia Host and Producer, Restorative Justice on The Rise
Restorative Justice Fellow to The Peace Alliance
Daughter of Long-term prisoner
An interesting article in Overland describes how the rhetoric of tougher sentencing, primarily from the politicians and media completely ignores the victims and their needs. A quote from the article states, "...it’s clear that focusing on the criminal justice system to address gendered violence involves too narrow a perspective. The assumption, of course, is that if we treat these offenders with an iron fist, it will send a message to others that their conduct is unacceptable. Rigid approaches to deterrence or criminalisation have not worked in relation to drugs, prostitution or countless other behaviors. But when all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail."
Zero tolerance laws and exclusively using a criminal justice approach to justice has overcrowded our prisons and filled the pockets of the prison industrial complex. However these approaches continue to ignore the voice of victims focusing only on laws that are broken and often times sending offenders off on a life long career of criminal behavior with no thought of the long term consequences to society.
Restorative justice programs are being utilized more and more across the country because it is more effective than courts and prisons in dealing with many adult and juvenile offenders. The evidence shows that most people going through a restorative process re-offend at a much smaller rate than is experienced in the criminal justice system ( on average, 10% vs 70% respectively.) While this statistic is good news for restorative justice, the ability for victims to have a voice and for all parties in a conflict to own their actions and understand how it affected others is a powerful healing process.
Restorative practices can be used in schools to reduce bullying in school, fighting and other harmful actions. The end result that school safety increases and kids stay in school while adopting more positive behaviors for the future. Restorative justice lets them take responsibility, fix what's been broken, and re-establish important family or community relationships.
Talking sense when it comes to justice gets better results than talking tough. I invite you to learn more and get involved.
I just completed an advanced facilitator training course with the Longmont Community Justice Partnership. I've been a facilitator for a while but wanted to improve my understanding and capabilities of the restorative process in order to be more effective in working with families, individuals and the like.
The focus of the training was on restorative circles where you might have an unclear distinction between who is the victim and who is the offender. Life can be complicated like that, can't it? With the blurring of these roles you end up focusing on relationships and responsibilities rather than a single incident that occurred, which can result in a wide ranging discussion of mutual responsibilities. This can be difficult for many people involved, but it is critical for healing.
At the heart of this restorative work are the 5 Rs of Restorative Justice: Relationship, Respect, Responsibility, Repair, Reintegration. In my mind, relationship is the most important R because if a relationship is not important, then there is probably little respect between the parties; few people are interested in exploring their responsibilities in the relationship, and no one is interested in understanding who was harmed, and what to do to make things right. This all results in broken relationships which can tear families, marriages and communities apart.
Gee, what a sad commentary. However, lots of people in families, school and work environments, and in the general community are very interested in maintaining and improving relationships. So, if you are not happy with the dynamics in your family, workplace, etc. but have a desire to improve the situation, you should be exploring the 5 Rs and asking for help.
Think about those 5 Rs and all the conflict that exists in the world between people. If there was a desire for understanding that included respect and taking responsibility, do you really think we would have as much violence as we do?