What We Do
In our restorative practice, we create a structured, safe, and respectful setting for all parties. We aspire to engage in work that has a transformative effect, allowing everyone the experience of being heard. We are dedicated to a stance of replacing isolation and division with community. Our current initiatives include:
Victim-Offender Dialogues: These are carefully facilitated and are intended to provide those who have been harmed a chance to describe the impact to those who have harmed them. The dialogues also assist in creating a context where offenders are able to take in the true impact of what they have done and begin to articulate meaningful remorse. Dialogues often lead to specific plans for reparation.
We believe it is vital for each individual’s experience of harm to be fully heard and for the Center to create a relationship with both parties before moving toward a face-to-face meeting. Next we bring a victim and offender together in a safe, structured setting to facilitate a dialogue. In these encounters, the person who has been harmed may:
- Fully explain the impact of the harm
- Have all his or her questions answered (this may be particularly salient for victims who experience continuing reverberations from the crime such as wondering why they were targeted)
- Describe what form justice should take
- Create a unique agreement for restitution
We also create a context where offenders may:
- Understand the impact of his or her actions on another human being
- Participate in restitution for harm done
- Explore positive alternatives for the future
Dialogues can last between two and three hours and are structured by trained volunteer facilitator to help both sides achieve an understanding of the most important underlying issues affecting trust and healing. We may engage in a single dialogue, or decide it is important for there to be multiple dialogues. The outcome of the conversation is a unique agreement for restitution which the parties work out jointly, a process which is healing for the victim and empowering to the offender. An important intangible outcome is the transformative experience of trust in human nature and personal accountability.
Influenced by the work of Kay Pranis, the Center also creates “Circles” as a forum for resolving conflict. Based on Native American traditions of Talking Circles, this practice allows for a more communal response to issues such as crime and violence. The goals of a Circle may include creating a witness for those harmed by crime, assisting in accountability for those who have created harm, and also creating pathways for those who have harmed to be reincorporated into community.
Trainings in prisons and jails
The Center also offers trainings in Restorative Justice practices to prisons and jails. The Center engages in direct work with incarcerated men, women and youth to assist in greater accountability and reentry into community. We also work with jail and prison staff around Restorative Justice ideas and practices.