What we can learn from the youth!

Young people never cease to amaze me!  I received a call today from Jacob, who is doing some work with us and attends a school we are supporting.  He asked about the conference he is co-presenting at with me and then asked concerned if I could explain something.  He asked about language, in particular what my thoughts were around “peace making circles.”  I tend to prefer “Restorative Justice” to “peace making”, yet I hadn’t ever given it much thought.  He raised this question because he was thinking that jacobRJ is different from relationship building circle and in particular my definition of RJ and was looking to create alignment in his own thinking and is seeking out a whole theory.  I will be the first to say it: we in the RJ community haven’t done a great job of creating a whole theory.  What he saw was two different practices that don’t necessarily belong under the same definition.

His question brought up some real concerns…  I had to take a moment and think about my definition of RJ, “A relational approach to conflict.”  How does this connect to the community building practices of circles and peace making?  In my definition of RJ there is an implicit assumption that we enter into relationship with conflict…  Am I ok with this assumption?  Are you?  Should we instead believe there is a place of peace, a place devoid of conflict where we enter into community together?

Restorative Justice is closely connected to equity work and as such we know systemic and institutional racism (or sexism, or homophobia) are a real experience for people.  If we enter into relationship with someone in the presence of systemic and institutional racism are we not in conflict immediately?  Do we not therefore need to start building relationships and connection, eventually building to some level of understanding and empathy?

I stand by my first priority of RJ: Conflict happens.  It isn’t a bad thing, but it is a thing.  Conflict can be an intensely personal experience or it can be a systemic reality.  Either way, it is our responsibility to build relationship in the face of that painful conflict.

Listen to young people… you might learn something, they might ask the question that drives your work forward… Thank you Jacob.



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Restorative Justice Collaborative of Washington State.


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It was my pleasure to end the month of September by coming together to begin the Restorative Justice Collaborative.  While our name and mission continue to get ironed out, our general goal it to act as a hub for RJ practitioners across the state.  This is modeled after some of the work done in states like OR and CO.

Working with a great team to bring together a group of amazing people at the Whidbey Is Institute was such a pleasure.  I have to mention that the Institute was gracious enough to support our work in multiple ways.  Thank you to Tom, Dan, and the Institute for your support, interests, and leadership.  We arrived Monday afternoon and spent the first few hours in circle getting to know one another.  I sincerely appreciate how we try to walk the talk, if we think community is important we need to make time in every gathering for people to get to know one another.

I don’t want to go into every detail, so I will just say that we had many opportunities to sit, talk, and share throughout the two days, both as a large group and as small pairs/groups.  It was a pleasure to meet some of them for the first time and find such like minded people from around the state, represented regions included Bellingham, Port Townsend, Spokane, Tri-Cities, Clark Co, and a bunch from the Puget Sound.  We hope to increase our presence across the state and gather those that are IMG_2918doing the work.

Please reach out if you would like to be included in future discussions and gatherings!  We are looking to build teams that are working to support our collaborative, legislative policy, and direct work in a number of fields.



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