A restorative justice approach to working with children in residential care
From the paper by Dr. Willie McCarney presented at the 1st World Congress on Restorative Juvenile Justice. Lima Peru, 4-7 November 2009.
A child is at greater risk of obtaining a criminal record following entry to the care system than a child living at home with the support of his/her family. Consequently, there is a very real need to focus thinking on the reasons why this should be and to develop a response which may reduce that likelihood.
One of the greatest risk indicators is living in residential care and the collective influence of living with other troubled young people. Research suggests that much of the early offending takes place in the residential children's home and as the situation deteriorates increasingly the police are called in to defuse it and more often than not an arrest is the outcome.
The research referred to looks at offending behaviour in “regular” children’s homes. I will be focusing on Intensive Support Units which deal with the most damaged and troubled young people in residential care. Many of these young people already have a history of serious offending on entry to the units. Court appearances frequently relate to offences which predate their arrival. That is not to say that the research I will be commenting on does not apply to these particular children. Indeed the use of Restorative Practices is even more important in their case. What it does mean is that the baggage children carry with them on entry makes working with them so much more difficult. It also means that formal approaches like family group conferencing are not always practical. Responses need to be immediate and “on the hoof”. These might be things like a “corridor conference”, “restorative chat” or “restorative discussion”. Success depends not so much on the response chosen but rather on whether a “restorative ethos” permeates the unit.
Jan 18, 2010 Practice
Restorative justice workshop report
From the blog post by Sue Huff, trustee for Edmonton Public Schools.
For the past three days, I've attended a Restorative Justice Facilitator Workshop put on by the Alberta Conflict Tranformation Society. I've had the opportunity to hear about this practice from a few sources, including Dr. Martin Brokenleg and some EPSB staff who believe that it is a more effective teaching tool than traditional punitive measures like suspensions or expulsions. This workshop was a chance to delve a little more deeply into the process.
...In a nutshell, this approach demands that the one who has caused the harm (or "offender" if it is a legal case) take responsibility for their actions, admit what they have done and come face-to-face with everyone who has been harmed (or "victims".) The facilitated conversation that takes place is raw, emotional and honest. Everyone talks about how they have been affected by the incident. Victims have the opporunity to have burning questions answered. In the end, the circle decides what steps need to be taken to move towards repairing the harm and rebuilding relationships/lives/community/hope. In most cases, conflict is transformed into cooperation. Hatred is transformed into understanding, empathy or forgiveness. Of course, it doesn't work 100% of the time, but in most circumstances, people on both sides leave feeling satisfied with the outcomes. (Contrast that satisfaction with how most people feel after a court case.)
My Classroom's Journey with Restorative Practices
From the 7 January 2010 Restorative Practices E-Forum by Deanna L. Webb:
When I graduated from college with a degree in special education, I was prepared to offer students specially designed instruction, program modifications and a variety of teaching techniques to match their individual learning styles, as well as tools and techniques they could use to be successful with academics. What I was not prepared for, however, was the need to fill in the blanks in their lives that were not a part of the typical academic school environment. This became especially evident when I began teaching in the emotional support setting. My students all lacked a sense of community, and consequently they also lacked a sense of accountability. During my first few years as a teacher in this setting, I struggled to connect with students and to keep them engaged in the school environment. Some students did very well, but I was unable to reach others. The tools I acquired in IIRP classes and then used in my classroom allowed me to build community and teach accountability and respect to a very challenging population of students.
The first change I made to begin building community was to rearrange my classroom management system to reflect the new focus of our classroom. I created “Community, Inc.,” a classroom management system that was “publicly owned; created communities; invested in relationships and made a profit from the positive growth and relationships it created.” In this new system every student had a job, along with responsibilities to the overall “company.” My classroom had “corporate meetings” at least twice a day, and sometimes more frequently if we needed to address an issue in the classroom. “Community, Inc.” pushed the typical boundaries of classroom rules to a system where the students decided the norms of behavior in the classroom, along with how each student would be held accountable, not just to the teacher and administration, but also to the community as a whole.
Restorative justice can alter behavior of perpetrators, teach empathy
....Q: What do you say to people who would challenge restorative justice as being soft on criminals?
It is just the opposite. It is not at all easy to sit in front of someone you have harmed and listen to how their lives have been affected by your actions; to hear your family say they don't understand why this happened and break down into tears; or to hear your teacher/coach/youth minister/best friend express their disappointment at your actions.
It becomes very hard to keep up a mask of indifference and solitude and pretend that other human beings are not affected by your behavior.
The bottom-line goal for restorative justice is stopping crime by holding offenders accountable in the future. All of this can take place within the current justice system. We don't have to start from scratch.
Restorative justice offers an opportunity, not a guarantee, for healing
from Lorenn Walker's blog:
“Not everyone’s wounds will heal” after being victimized by crime, an experienced judge says. This is true. Some people will never heal. Restorative justice is not a panacea that will heal every single person’s wounds suffered from being a crime victim. Restorative justice offers only the opportunity for healing, not a guarantee, but we know from an abundance of research that restorative justice helps many people.
Having no boundaries works . . . when it comes to volunteer recruitement
I got the wrong number and tried to get the person to become a volunteer.
A man on the treadmill next to me, tried making small talk, I tried to get him to volunteer. Someone came to the office to use the phone. I got him to volunteer. To convert a wrong number to a volunteer, that’s a new one, even for me.
Jan 01, 2010 Practice
Response to the (UK) Independent Commission on Youth Crime and Antisocial Behaviour
Note: The Independent Commission on Youth Crime and Antisocial Behaviour was formed in the UK to seek:
...ways to reduce the damage that children and young people who take part in antisocial and criminal acts can cause to victims, to neighbourhoods and to themselves. In inviting views on how this should be done, we acknowledge the emotional and social harm as well as the financial costs that can result from such behaviour.
We are looking for ways of responding to youth crime and antisocial behaviour that are more clearly principled, as well as fair, humane and more cost-effective than those presently in place. We anticipate that such a system would not only meet the needs of children, families and the wider community more effectively, but also – through its grounding in agreed principles – prove politically sustainable.
Here are portions of Dr. Martin Wright's comments on a consultation paper released by the Commission for discussion. The full document is available below.
Restorative justice talking circles: The simplest of questions can connect us
I came up with the “getting acquainted” question off the top of my head. I asked what winter clothing item, do you most enjoy wearing. It was the last class of the semester so about the 16th Circle for this group. I was impressed and struck by how connected we became over articles of clothing.
A student just a few seats to my right, turned up his jeans at the ankle, and talked about loving his flannel jeans. Of course I thought how I always wanted to get a pair of those. The talking piece was across the Circle, another student, made comment to his peer across the Circle ” . . . me, too” and showed the flannel lining of his jeans.
Someone else talked about loving mittens that divide your fingers on the inside. I connected with that. It was really fun a round of answers to listen to.
A recent evaluation form had the feedback that what the person liked least was “too much fluff at the begining, unnecessary”. I thought about that Circle, and I know I spent some time getting all 22 people feeling comfortable. I do feel the stages are structured to get us prepared for the tougher questions.
Mercy urged for child charged in Jakarta murder
The National Commission for Child Protection on Wednesday said it was working hard to save a 10-year-old boy, suspected of having stabbed and beaten his adoptive mother to death, from serving up to 15 years in jail.
East Jakarta Police investigators have said the child, who is originally from Nias and is an orphaned survivor of the 2004 tsunami in Aceh, may face charges for violating the 2004 law on domestic violence.
The Children's Aid Society of New York — A New Start for Disconnected Youth
Ana Bermudez, director of juvenile justice programs for The Children’s Aid Society of New York City, works with youth from some of the city’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. When she
started with Children’s Aid in 2007, Bermudez knew that a restorative approach would be critical, and she has infused the practices throughout the initiatives she oversees, saying, “I was not going to run any of the programs here without a restorative focus.”
Each year, Children’s Aid serves 150,000 children and families at locations throughout the city, providing services ranging from job training and academic support to health care and family counseling. Bermudez heads the agency’s Lasting Investments in Neighborhood Connections (LINC) program, which helps formerly incarcerated youth transition back to their community. She also
supervises the Next Generation Center in the South Bronx, a LINC site that provides recreational and educational programs — and a haven in a neighborhood plagued by poverty and violence.