PiRi explores restorative sessions
Feb 22, 2010
from Sue Klassen's article in the newsletter of Partners in Restorative Initiatives (PiRi):
PiRI is exploring the possible use of Restorative Sessions, based on research conducted by Lorenn Walker in the Pono Kaulike program in Hawaii. This pilot program, which reportedly achieved a nearly 50% drop in recidivism and high satisfaction from participants, combined traditional restorative conferencing procedures with Restorative Sessions, meetings that allow offenders to discuss their situations even when their victims decide against joining in the process.
Like PiRI’s work in the Town Courts, the Pono Kaulike program deals with misdemeanor level cases in which many victims choose not to participate.
For some, the harm they experienced may not warrant the time and effort participation would take. Others want to have input, but do not want to meet face-to-face. Victims often cannot be reached due to faulty contact information or being in prison themselves. Although our first choice is always to bring together victims, offenders and community members in a safe, respectful process, restorative goals can still be addressed by meeting with a more limited group of those willing and able to participate.
“As the Pono Kaulike pilot program developed, it became apparent that there was a need for other restorative interventions that did not require face-to-face meetings between all of the involved parties,” Walker writes in her paper “Pono Kaulike: Reducing Violence with Restorative Justice and Solution-Focused Approaches,” which was published in Federal Probation.
When victim involvement is not possible, facilitators hold a Restorative Session with the offender, inviting him or her to bring supporters. In the session, they explore together what happened, who was affected and how, and ideas for repairing the harm and moving forward in a good way.
Restorative Conversations are offered to victims to help them cope with the effects of a crime when offender participation is not possible.
“The need for the restorative conversation arises from no one being identified as a perpetrator, or no one admits guilt, or the victim simply not wishing to meet with the offender,” Walker writes.
One of the keys to the Pono Kaulike program was the use of solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT). This therapy focuses on what participants want to achieve, rather than on the past. Offenders work with their supporters to identify their preferred future and to discuss what steps they can take, based on their own strengths and resources, to fulfill that future. Participants use these tools to build an effective Restorative Plan, which is submitted to the court.
“Solution-focused approaches are empowering and considered a best practice by the federal government,” Walker writes (OJJDP, 2008).