Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Political Rise of Restorative Justice

 Some National News about Restorative Justice: 
      The Peace Alliance's Restorative Justice Fellow, Molly Rowan Leach, has co-authored a new article at Huffington Post with Dr. Sandra Pavelka, one of our nation's leading researchers and reporters on the legislative and statistical elements of the current and recent rise of restorative justice in the United States. It's a highly informative article, entitled "The Political Rise of Restorative Justice." 

The Political Rise of Restorative Justice

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

To friends, near and far, who made it possible to bring Restorative Justice to IIPS and those wonderful souls I met there.....

At the President's Palace Gardens with Wanida Jiamram, a
Peace Activist in Thailand.
Since I returned from the International Institute of Peace Studies I've been busy gathering the threads of work and related tasks.  In addition to my Restorative Justice work and work in hospice, I've been asked to help edit a letter ror someone still learning English, write a recommendation for one of the Peace Studies participants, a summary report of the IIPS course from my perspective and an article for AMAN's April issue. I will post a link to that magazine when its available. 
       Dear GoFundMe friends, I have not forgotten you and will never forget the feelings that your support created within me. It was an amazing, surprising and and affirming experience to be the recipient of your generosity so that I could share Restorative Justice. My table is filled with the thank you gifts for your support, which i will get into the mail soon. 
      My time at the International Institute of Peace Studies was a very special journey and I am still digesting the insights gleaned from being with this international, inter-faith group of young people whose hearts and minds on focused on helping others and creating a more peaceful world. 
      I can never know the many unexpected ways in which I might serve or be of use until I say YES to something and step into the unknown. This experience made that clear to me again. I taught 3 full day sessions on aspects of Restorative Approaches, using interactive exercises on Deep listening, Belonging and creating Community as well as an RJ role play, some quotes that are "touchstones" for this work, work with Establishing presence, Cycles of Intervention etc. 
    But perhaps beyond all that, being transparent and vulnerable was the unexpected gift that I brought to the gathering as I shared my Jewish heritage with a room of young adults who, except for 1-2, had never met a Jewish person before. I had not planned on that, but felt compelled to do so on the very first day! Several conversations did arise from that, but as is always true, its never just the words, but our simple interactions, that convey the most information. I've been told since that the organizers feel that was the most "perfect" gift I gave. My hope is that the participants I lived with for 3 weeks will be able to tell the people they live and work with that they have met a Jewish person who did not hate Muslims, or Christians. Just as I can say that I've met Muslim people who don't carry hatred in their hearts, but are working for peace, not war and revenge. We fear one another because of stereotypes created by misinformation and misunderstanding. And because we have not met each other as individuals. Perhaps reaching out to meet one another and speaking about the truth of those encounters is one of the most powerful Restorative Approaches we can take to promote a just peace in these troubled times.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Welcome to Restorative Connections.  Whether through my work in death and dying, meditation, learning ceremony from gifted teachers, or facilitating Restorative Justice,  my work and practice and personal growth for the last 2 decades has shared a common focus: a commitment to learning how connections can be strengthened and repaired and how a heart that is not broken, but broken-open, can make all the difference in our lives.  

Not long ago I was looking at my Rakasu, a small Zen "bib" made of several pieces of fabric that create a whole; stitched together with hidden stitches.  In making a Zen priest's robe, every stitch is a prayer. 

Our lives are like that too.  The fabric of our life is fashioned from experiences and relationships; relationships to people, to animals, to our work and to the natural world.  Relationships built from experiences with our own true nature and our own good heart. 

And its all held together with small hidden stitches that are not visible to others; threads of experience and relationship that are perhaps prayers, or the answer to a prayer.  

Sometimes the threads can seem to unravel or the fabric becomes frayed, not merely by the inevitable wear and tear and passing of time, but by conflict, disappointment and loss, by forgetfulness or fear. 

Perhaps there's been conflict with loved ones or disappointment with our larger community. We might have "lost" people or places we loved, or find that we no longer have a sense of global connection.  Maybe we've lost touch with what used to have meaning, lost our sense of being part of nature,  lost our sense of "belonging" to the world around us, or become disheartened. Maybe we can't seem to find the optimism that once enlivened our days...or the open-hearted love and joy that gave color and texture to our life. 

The unraveling and fraying can seem irreparable.

I'll be sharing my experience with Council Process, Bearing Witness, Peacemaking Circles and Restorative Justice with you as ways to make restorative connections.  We'll explore the ways that deep listening, mythology, ceremony, poetry and art can bring us back to a sense of wholeness.  

We can bring the fabric of our life with all its pieces, with their imperfections and beauty, close to our heart again, where it belongs. We can restore the fabric of our life.

I hope you'll join me in this exploration and share your hard won wisdom and the restorative connections you've used to re-create wholeness. 

Want to know more about who I am and what I'm up to?  
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Asian Muslim Action Network Blog: The 2014 Peace Studies Course at International Ins...

Here is the link to a short reflection I wrote for the AMAN blog where i served as a Resource Person for their Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies Course in Thailand this Jan-Feb.  Asian Muslim Action Network Blog: The 2014 Peace Studies Course at International Ins...: We came from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Egypt, Uganda, Tanzania, Myanmar, Japan, Lebanon,...

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


    When I am working as a facilitator of Restorative Justice with juveniles, it seems most natural to use what I have learned in Council practice and listen with my whole being. Generally, I tell the people in the RJ Circles that I know its hard for each of us to hear a totally different version about the "facts" about what happened, but in the RJ Circle we can listen to one another and make room for the differences. No one has to give up anything.
     As a facilitator, I find its best to be genuinely interested or curious, in an "innocent" way,  about someone else's viewpoint.  If I am " trying to open" or even “shift” another's mind - my own mind isn't open. Too much “trying” creates goal driven "listening ” . Goal driven listening blocks out anything that doesn’t fit the goal, or my assumptions. It blocks information, blocks transformation, and kills the possibilities of surprises, new understanding and those treasured and ultimately transformational “ ah ha!” moments.
   Conversely, attentive listening and genuine interest allows us to remember that the "other" is a multi-dimensional being, not simply the label of offender, or victim, aggressor, or bully. When we see the multi-faceted parts of one another, we can realize our shared humanity.
    If I stay with my breath in an atmosphere that is filled with tension and make contact evenly with each individual our shared humanity seems to become more visible to everyone.  Even the physical space we are in, which may have been crowded with tension as well as bodies, seems to get larger - allowing more room for the emergence of something new, some spirit of "being in it together", some shift of understanding that does not require anyone to give up their disagreements at all, but to simply explore the life we share.  Then, anything can happen and it’s not up to me.

Respect, Responsibility, Repair, Reintegration and Relationship

           These 5 words are the key principles of Restorative Justice and other
                                             Restorative Approaches. 
      These principles are incorporated into all aspects of the Restorative Justice process.
         In the community where I live and work with juveniles who have broken a law we've 
learned that:
 Caring Relationships with Adults
 Boundaries and Expectations &
Hopes and Dreams for the Future
 are the strongest Protective Factors that we can put into place to help our youth avoid being involved in violence or substance abuse. 
      We use Restorative Justice to work with youth in the juvenile justice system and 
their families and those affected by what they have done.
         A Restorative Justice Circle focuses on:
Naming the Harm
Repairing the Harm
         and Assuring the Community of its Safety (No future offenses)
            We accomplish these goals by having those affected by the incident coming together 
so that  everyone has an opportunity to participate in talking about what happened.  
           How were they affected? How do they feel now? 
What needs to happen to repair  the harm? 
   When discussing the event, the youth ( both victim and offender) are given the opportunity
 to look for moments in the flow of events when different decisions might have been made. 
    This kind of self-reflection, accountability and response- ability is rarely included in the 
standard juvenile justice process and they provide a unique and powerful opportunity for 
insight and behavioral change to begin. 
By identifying the injuries and naming ways to repair that harm, a Restorative 
approach can become “medicine” and create a foundation for a just peace.   
      Safe, incremental "steps" to reconciliation between the youth happen in the RJ Circle in 
form of various short exercises where they can "practice" possible future encounters. 
   At the end of the process, a Restorative Plan is created and agreed upon by all the 
participants.  The RJ Plan includes ways to repair the harm and identifies specific activities 
for the offender to accomplish, to prevent future problems.  
  One unique strength of the RJ process is that the RJ Circle illuminates the harm that 
was done to the identified victim, but also illuminates the harm done to others; to the family 
of the identified offender, to the offender him/her self, and to other members of the 
   Using the five principles of Respect, Responsibility, Repair, Reintegration and Relationship, 
Restorative approaches can be be used to illuminate values as well as emerging areas 
of conflict and lay the foundation for strengthening the positive interactions that individual 
and community life depends upon. 

Want to know more about what I've been up to?

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