You can’t change the past, but you can change what you learn from it.

Recently I was in a full day training with Mark Carey,  the local Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee sponsored the training for area professionals and community members.  I got to sit next to our Judge and interact with engaged community members and fellow professionals around the topic of improving our impact on juvenile delinquency.

The main focus of our training was to learn more about being effective by addressing criminogenic needs, (and risks) demonstrated by youth.  The link I provided, is slightly different than our training materials.  In the material the first identified criminogenic need/risk was “criminal history”.  Mark advised us he didn’t care much for this one, because you can’t change it.

It can be my nature, to do what you tell me I can’t.  I was listening, but also applying my ‘restorative justice’ lens to Mark’s presentation.  I thought how restorative justice helps replace the past in a certain way, by focusing the lesson within.

I would love to get more upfront, diversion type of cases.  Yet I see and appreciate the value when we get cases that are a year out since the crime.  These are usually the cases where RJ has been court-ordered, often the vicitms have moved beyond wanting to meet face to face.  This doesn’t stop our program from administering some RJ.  SCVRJP uses Victim Empathy Seminars (VES), which involved multiple offenders (and parents in the case of juvenile).  Community members are part of all SCVRJP Circles, VES’s included.

It is these ‘dated’ cases where the community gets to see what our court system is getting involved with.  These cases are often going well at the present moment and the community gets to reinforce the positive behavior change.  Harvesting the wisdom from the incident often occurs.  It is not uncommon for talk about the situation be that without it, significant life changes would not have occurred.  Often times the VES allows for a sense of closure, by describing what happened in the past, you write the last chapter, you describe how you are now.  The past is really “past tense”.

If youth that were being evaluated for ‘criminogenic risk’ didn’t have a history, perhaps we’ve jumped the gun and over responded.  That was another point in the training, that providers can make things worse by over-responding.

I am excited where the field is right now.  I am thankful we are looking at how to do this work better.  I believe in Evidence Based, but I balance that as learned in the book Deep Brain Learning.  Our profession is doing what restorative justice does with this criminogenic factor – you can’t change the past, but you can learn from it.