Doing Democracy with Circles by Ball, Caldwell & Pranis:
Circles ensure that each voice will be heard and each concern taken into account. Circles involve full participation. When Circles work, it is because all the participants are involved in shaping the process and keeping it on track. The participants, not the facilitator, hold themselves and each other accountable for how the process goes. If a gap starts forming between values and behavior, principles and practice, then the responsibility lies with each particpant to do something about it. (page 10)
One of the key teachings I try to provide, regarding Circle keeping, is summed up above. The power to give people belief in the values and principles of Circle in a manner that impacts their behavior and practices.
When engaging in Restorative Justice as a facilitator or as a partner referring cases it is important to recognize that a program is solid when it remains focues on the values and principles of Restorative Justice.
I have found that people respond to values. When you place values and value-based communication opportunities in front of people they respond. From the young person in kindergarden that shared she feels invisible when someone takes her turn to the prison inmate who calls life on the street a “mad-tality” (mentality of life, that means you are fiercely angry).
When you use Circles and engage all participants in the outcome, it means SOOO much more. Restorative Justice brings the different sides and perspectives together. The issue or incident is in the middle. Much more productive. I explained it this morning as looking at both sides of the same coin. There is something very empathetic about the person who has caused harm, to listen to the person harmed. Even, if it’s not in the exact same incident.
I am very proud of many of the programs developed at SCVRJP, I just reference our collaboration with drug court, and our Circles of Understanding as a “crown jewel” in my career. It stems from our ability to ensure each voice is heard in Circle. The Circle process is powerful and dynamic and I believe a true catalyst for change.