You can’t do Restorative Justice without community members. I believe they bring in collective wisdom. I train our volunteers on aspects of Restorative Justice, and request they show up with their best selves.
I focus on Restorative Justice Accountability as being:
- acknowledging you caused harm
- understanding that harm from anothers point of view
- recognizing where you had choices
- take steps to make amends
- take action to change
The common theme in a group incident emerged as “we were bored”. By my assessment and other statements in the Circle, these were a decent group of young people, referenced as “straight-laced”, “good kids”, “student leaders”. Parents expressed shock, when learning what the group had done. The kids really were owning up to bad decisions.
The “bored” piece struck a community member. She pushed back on that one. She very lovingly informed the group, that the community doesn’t owe young people something to do. The explanation about communities with even less resources, not having young people harm others was a solid example. I watched the younger faces for a response, as soon as I grasped what the community member was speaking to.
Once again the power of knitting people together at the beginning of the circle paid off. I could see respectful acceptance of this suggestion. I also saw a set of eyes lower down, it seemed in realization that ‘boredom’ was not acceptable. The community member rounded back to reinforcing the young people, acknowledging them for being in the Circle, taking responsibilty and talking over what had happened. She offered ideas for repairing the harm, she had a connection in the community that made perfect sense.
I am so thankful for Restorative Justice volunteers. People willing to volunteer and not know exactly what they are going to hear or respond to. It takes a special person to be willing to hold both sides of an issue in a ‘grey’ space. The black and white of right and wrong needs to be set aside. That alone takes a unique skill set. Its like remembering to love our kids, and remember we don’t like their behavior.
The volunteers I work with at SCVRJP, give of themselves. The storytellers, the circlekeepers, the conference facilitators, they find a way to be real and honest. The more they step up to the plate, the bigger and better our program becomes. Each Circle teaches something, facilitator or participant volunteers grow with each experience.
I was recently provided some observations about our program. The feedback was an awareness of how close knit our volunteer team is. I knew they were close to me, I have relationships with all of the volunteers. To hear that their connections with each other, and with SCVRJP are evident and important, really made me happy.
I strive to operate a program that has a life of its own. The personality of SCVRJP should always reflect restorative justice values. To have our relationships showing strong, gives me something to really be thankful for this holiday season.