Talking cure: Community Conferencing Center uses restorative justice techniques to deal with crime in Baltimore
Jun 09, 2009
They have assembled for what's called a community conference, a conflict-resolution strategy (or, in the lingo of those who practice it, a "conflict transformation" strategy) that will help each of the parties in the room discuss what happened, why it happened, and what everyone would like to see happen to resolve the problem. Once everyone comes to a mutual decision about how the problem should be resolved, everyone in the room signs an "agreement," which outlines the things participants will to do to make amends for the situation that brought them to the conference in the first place.
From the Baltimore City Paper article by Erin Sullivan: Sometimes it can get a little tense. But that's part of what makes community conferencing so useful and successful, according to Abramson. In a world where people are encouraged to bottle up their feelings, she says, the need to express emotion is squashed. In a community conference, people have the opportunity to express their emotions and talk about them openly in a safe and productive environment.
"As human beings, it's important for us to do this," Abramson says, citing the work of personality theorist and psychologist Silvan Tomkins, who asserted that human beings are biologically motivated by emotion. "Conflict is about being angry or disgusted by each other, or being afraid of each other. They're negative emotions, but they're not good or bad. They are just part of our biology.
"I think what conferencing does is it gives people a chance to give voice to it. I worked in behavioral medicine with people who were putting a lid on emotions all the time and ending up with job problems and intestinal problems and blood-pressure problems. You name it. It's because we are not paying attention to our biology. What I think conferencing really does on a biological level is to allow people to give voice to what they are experiencing and understand each other a little better and allow those negative emotions to shift into something better."
Read the whole article.