Restorative Justice trends, 5 things I’ve learned in 5 years.

I am taking a day of Paid Time Off.   At the end of last year, I lost several hours I could have used in Paid Time Off.  I vowed not to do that to myself this year, I have to use it or lose it.  I selected today, as a day off because tomorrow I turn 42 years old.  This is the 5th birthday I’ve while employed with SCVRJP.  I thought it fitting to share 5 reflections on the trends I’ve seen.

1.)Communinty Awareness – During pre-circle conversation, a University of Wisconsin- River Falls student shared that a guest presenter in ‘Irish Studies’ class, included an actual Irishman, from Ireland.   The speaker talked about Restorative Justice!  I was excited to hear about that and commented on the great results they are having.  I immediately thought of the two police officers I met from Ireland.

Another student added her experience.  A film producer who will by ‘skyped’ in from New York following a campus screening of The Secret Life of Barbie.  Lisa F. Jackson, also produced: The Greatest Silence, Rape in the Congo.  In conversation with the producer, she mentioned Restorative Justice.  The mention was about a helpful program in New York.  The student shared, how neat it was “we have that here” referencing Restorative Justice.  It really made me feel good, for students on our college campus to be linking SCVRJP to other conversations and experiences.

2)School communities – In 2004 SCVRJP assisted River Falls High School with implementing Restorative Justice process as part of a discipline option.  As case referrals grew, SCVRJP also began to train around the state.  As it turns out income generated from training consultation income, is a revenue stream for SCVRJP.  I would not have anticipated this, and I am excited to see schools and teacher embrace community building and conflict resolution techniques, not just in restorative justice but in many other areas.  For example social, emotional learning awareness, character building and alternatives to suspension and expulsion.

3) Philosophical appreciation – I’ve had the good fortune of being around Restorative Justice since ’98.  The current system of responding to crime has been around quite a bit longer.  It seems more and more, there is understanding about the limits of our crminal justice system.  A process that values hearing people out, collectively identifying what needs to make things right is more embraced now, than maybe 5 years ago.

4)Circle process ROCKS! – It amazes me again and again, how powerful it can be to simply take turns talking.  The process has been a valued tool in SCVRJP delivering services.  Experiences in the last 5 years range from hearing a kindergarten saying she feels invisible if people take her turn, to a retired community member feeling grounded, connected and impressed by teens.  I held to ‘Circles’ as a technique and process, I didn’t water down the process.  Now SCVRJP offers specific circles to address teen driving, underage drinking, controlled substance use – in addition to crimes like disorderly conduct, vandalism, theft.  Again and again we see success and our outcomes are very positive.

5)Social Media – The addition of blogs, facebook, Linked IN, have made significant contributions to the promotion of restorative justice.  We are able to connect to each other, share our stories.  Most importantly for me, has been the gift blogging has been.  As I have tried daily to enter a story, example, thought or perspective regarding Restorative Justice and talking circles.  Who knew 5 years ago, I’d be able to add ‘blogger’ to my professional experience list.  I haven’t found another Restorative Jusitce/Circles blogger that has been doing this as long, or with as many posts.  I’ve found another outlet to be me, this blog provides me a chance to review and reflect who I am, how I practice while providing readers a chance to grow and learn side by side.

As ‘Restorative Justice’ continues to grow, it will be interesting to see how these trends change in the next 5 years.  To another 5!