Small acts of kindness go a long way – and Restorative Justice is effective for being personal.

I am in beautiful Boise Idaho.  The 2nd Annual Northwest Alcohol Conference – it’s already seeming like it will be a good conference.  Last night in our hotel room, my daughter and I were starteled by a knock at the door.  Surely, they must have the wrong room, “I have a delivery for you”.  What!?  I spent a little time with an ex boyfriend, would he send something?

It was a basket of goodies from conference director!  Welcoming me, thanking me for presenting and the basket was full of Idaho produced items.  We had a water bottle, teas, chocolates, cinnamon flavor popcorn.  I got an example postcard and bookmark, reminding people underage that even one drink is impairment.  The sentiment was the most fun!  My daughter and I camped out on her bed, looked all the items over.  Before we left the airport, we heard about the Idaho candy potato.  Potato shaped marshmallow covered in chocolate, rolled in coconut, we examined it but didn’t taste.

So I am here to present on using Restorative Justice to address Underage Drinking and Drunk Driving.  My source is going to be the success of the SCVRJP underage consumption panels and victim impact panels.  I’ll use the data that we collect at these panels, the evaluation forms, which shows that people feel strongly immediately after the class.  The make strong public statements of behaving differently.  I believe they work.  I strongly and firmly believe in Restorative Justice.

I am trying to work out another diversion program.  I’ve been negotiating with our local district  attorney/prosecutor, I was more of the case and sooner.  I’d like the diversion program to mean a few less court appearance.  I’d like the community conference outcomes to be ahead not behind what is finally “ordered”, so that our conference ‘work’ is endorsed by the court.  See I am working on making waves and not rocking the boat.  For me, ideally, there would not be one court hearing – you would go to Restorative Justice and if that didn’t work – the traditional system.  PLEASE NOTE – I am not talking about violent crimes.  I am talking about ‘car shopping’, smoking pot, fighting at school, drunken destruction of property.  Things that I think a good session of Restorative Justice and those in attendance (community members) could monitor any obligations (community service, restitution). 

See when Restorative Justice and the formal system address crime – similar outcomes can be listed, like community service.  That makes sense you right a wrong.  The formal system does it to punish, and Restorative Justice does it to repair.  We give the lesson with the support of other people, personally.

I was on the phone with a young person who had called the Center to sign up for an underage class.  I said, “who sent you here”, he said “the courts”.  I laughed a little (we work with 7 different courts).  His view is of “authoritative agency” – not a person.  After last nights Underage class . . . you can bet every single kid there knows that Catherine, Kyle, Gerry and Max care.  If you asked who was at Restorative Justice – they say a name, a person.  Okay, sometimes they forget the name, but they don’t forget the story.  “the guy that talked about killing his friend, man that was heavy, he’s really strong”.

So why does Restorative Justice work so well . . . because it’s personal!  Personal makes all the difference.  That gift basket – worth its weight in GOLD – because it was a small, random, unnecessary act of kindness.  The added touch gave me a sense of “belonging” and being part of the conference.  Sitting with volunteer community members because they “care” is also a small and random act of kindness.  Yet, very necessary because it is really makes a difference in helping people turn things around!