From telephones to restorative justice: It’s all about making connections
May 29, 2012
Phone connections have linked up people for over a century now, helping them to communicate better over distances. The technologies have certainly changed from decade to decade, (and now from year to year), but the common thread throughout phone history is that people who are far apart can communicate as if they are next to each other.
It’s not uncommon for crimes and conflicts to create relational distance between people for lots of reasons, and while a legal process may deliver some recompense for one or both parties involved, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the distance factor has been fully resolved. A key part of our agency’s mission is to connect people together so that they can have safe, constructive conversations that lead to satisfying results for all involved. Crime and conflicts naturally cause levels of mistrust, and that is why third-party neutrals play an important role to help people rebuild trust and reach positive outcomes. In this way, BCRJP staff and volunteers serve like the switchboard operators of old and the electronic systems of today, making the linkages necessary for good communication.
Not too long ago I was facilitating a meeting between a teen boy and his relative from whom he had stolen money. Toward the end of the meeting my co-facilitator asked the relative, “What’s been the hardest part of this whole experience, and what’s been the best part of it?” She thought a bit and then said, “The hardest part is that my relationship with him was strained and broken. The best part is that my relationship with him has been strengthened.” It might seem at first that those two things contradict each other, but what I have seen time and time again, is that out of difficult situations that pull people apart, a deeper connection can arise that would not have happened otherwise. To that end, our agency supports people in processes that invite a shift point, a point where the tough stuff of the past can be cashed in for better things in the future.