Circles for sex offenders first in the South
Durham is starting the first Circles of Safety and Accountability in the South for sex offenders getting out of prison. COSA will match recently released sex offenders in Durham with a circle of people who will meet with them weekly to hold them accountable and support them in re-entering the community.
Durham County is home to about 300 convicted sex offenders.
Review: A community-based approach to the reduction of sexual re-offending: circles of support and accountability
Often sex offenders are isolated people who have difficulty making relationships, and when they come out of prison the double stigma of prison and the nature of their offence isolates them still more – an extra hardship for them, and an increased risk that they will revert to their previous behaviour. So the idea of forming a circle of support for them is both humane and a safeguard. It does not fall under the usual definition of restorative justice, because it does not include dialogue with the victim, which would in many cases be unwanted and/or inappropriate. It does however restore or even improve the situation of the offender, and it involves members of the community.
The fight room
Today we continue to struggle with other epidemics, such as the widespread persistence of interpersonal violence, structural violence, and violence based in inter-racial and inter-ethnic tensions. Not only is the cost great in terms of lost lives and personal trauma, but considerable resources are also spent on attempts to subdue, redirect, and control the violence. Yet, as in nineteenth-century London, we may continue to make little progress in treating this disease until we are willing to honestly re-examine our deeply held beliefs about its origins.
A restorative circle in the wake of a police shooting
from the article by Andrea Brenneke in Tikkun:
....In the weeks after the shooting, members of the Williams family reported strained interactions with members of the police department, including increased scrutiny and harassment by bicycle patrol officers where they worked and sold their art at the Pike Place Market. Tensions were building. Something had to be done to address the immediate needs for safety and improve the relationship between the family, the community, and the police department.
....There was no restorative justice system in place nor any prior experience with Restorative Circles, so I worked with Kathryn Olson to create a shared understanding of the process we would use to hold this circle. We modified aspects of the Restorative Circle process to address the unusual circumstances. I was able to hold pre-circle meetings with the family members, friends, and community members, but it was not possible for me to meet in advance with most of the police department participants. Instead, I worked with Ms. Olson and provided her written summaries of the Restorative Circles process to share with the other participants in the Seattle Police Department. In all of this, I aimed to stay true to restorative principles and be flexible with the form of how the process unfolded.
Different types of restorative justice circles and a practitioner perspective
Just as there are 12 major markings on the face of a clock, I could list 12 different kinds of Circles. In four basic categories those Circles would be community building – peace building – repair building – and celebration. This also creates a full circle!
A very brief explanation on these four categories, followed by a practitioner perspective. All these Circles use the 4 stages and phases I have written about on this blog. You use good Circlekeeping skills and techniques for each of these.
Restorative practices in Hungary: An ex-prisoner is reintegrated into the community
from the article by Vidia Negrea:
As the representative of Community Service Foundation of Hungary, the Hungarian affiliate of the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP), I participated in a group session of the Hungarian Crime Prevention and Prison Mission Foundation in summer 2009 (Sycamore Tree Project — or Zacchaeus Program in Hungary). There I met the governor of Balassagyarmat prison, where inmates were working in groups on issues related to their crimes and exploring ways to repair relationships they had damaged.
Some inmates began accepting responsibility for what they had done and were motivated to make things right and earn forgiveness of victims and their families. Prisoners made symbolic reparation in the form of community service within the prison, but there was still a lot to do to create opportunities for offenders to make contact with victims and shed the stigma of their offense by means of direct reparation. Also, prison management believed it important to support processes, acceptable to victimized families and communities, to help prisoners regain control of their lives and prevent reoffending.
Circulos de Paz and the promise of peace: Restorative justice meets intimate violence
Circles of Peace/Circulos de Paz was founded in Nogales, Arizona in 2004 to address these myriad problems with both the criminal justice response to intimate violence and Batterer Intervention Programs. Circles of Peace is the first court-referred domestic violence treatment program to use a restorative justice circle approach to reduce violent behavior in families in the United States.
The program consists of twenty-six to fifty-two weeks of conferences, or "Circles," bringing partners who have been abusive (the "applicants") together with willing family members (including those who have been abused, the "participants"), support people, a trained professional facilitator, and community volunteers. The goal is to encourage dialogue about the incident, the history of violence in this family, and meaningful change.
The shape of a Restorative Justice Circles, taps our intuition and engages us in the process
While exploring Circle images on the World Wide Web, I found this webpage. “Our initial exposure to an idea shapes our intuition”. The article goes on to explain that our intuition impacts how much we enjoy a subject. I think that the shape of being in Circle, is the shape of humane productivity.
Sample Circle script, a guideline that does not replace training
I have always been resistant to scripts. When someone is in converstaion with you, do they read from a paper? Reading is best for with children on our laps and from books.
However, in order to teach the process and have others do it, you need to give some examples. So I am sharing a sample script. Each Circle is unique, the questions used should be unique. The shell or outer rim (values, 4 stages, talking piece, open/close) should be the same. The contents swirl within. The experience should be like a labyrinth going in deep to conversation and coming back out.
....When you “keep” a Circle you are making a committment to guide the process. Knowing and understanding the approach in a manner that you can be flexible to the needs of the Circle, requires a deep understanding of the philosophy. Training is crucial, being a participant in Circle is necessary to achieve the deep understanding.
The sample script:
Restorative Justice Dialogue: An essential guide for research and practice
reviewed by Eric Assur:
Inviting Howard Zehr, known as the grandfather of restorative justice (RJ), to write the forward of this book is reflective of the wisdom of the two authors, both social work professors and founders of peace and justice programs in large university settings. Zehr compliments Umbreit and Armour for writing a valuable ‘state of the union’ book to summarize how the discipline has grown in thirty years.
It is difficult to find flaws in this eleven chapter review of the philosophy, practices and programs which fit under the rubric of RJ. Unlike an anthology or collection of journal articles or chapters written by many authors, this book reflects the smooth writing style, with a few helpful tables and easy to follow figures, of the Umbreit-Armour team. They offer the up to date and well documented wisdom of many subject area experts in a comprehensive and cogent fashion.