Today I spent a few hours with wonderful people from King Co. Juvenile Justice and the Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution. They are working on an amazing pilot project that will eventually combine youth and adults to facilitate restorative conferences for actions that would otherwise lead to traditional retributive justice. We are all in the early stages of this project, not only for this region and the state but also across the nation. With a few state with successful programs or beginning to fund RJ programs (Colorado, Vermont, Minnesota, and others to a lesser degree). It is important to allow for the success and struggles of this new pilot.
We also watched the PBS report on Restorative Justice that tracks RJ practices from its early systems in the Maori tribes of New Zealand to the “mean streets” of Baltimore. It is an amazingly well done video, I still get emotional at the power of this work. Monday I will be bringing this work to the UW, to 90 undergrad education students. I am really excited to share this work that we are all doing.
Thank you all for joining me on this journey.
The Bridge Conference was Monday and Tuesday of this week. I was pleased to be presenting both days. It is such a wonderful time to meet with all my colleagues from around the state who are working to improve quality across the afterschool and youth development (AYD) field.
First off I want recognize Brooke Beckwith, my co-facilitator and soon to be partner at the Restorative Justice Center of the Northwest. This was our first time collaborating and working together in a real way. I will speak more about Brooke in an upcoming post. Before I move on I want to say, we will both be using the youth program quality frame work to support AYD programs in King and Pierce Counties as well as in our own work.
The question that was raised several time over the conference was “what is the experience of youth?” When you work in Restorative Justice it is essential to maintain the perspective of the youth. Not just by adult self reflection but by engaging in real dialogue with those youth most impacted by the system. It is not enough to develop a well meaning system, it is not enough to work hard at balancing power, only those who are experiencing the system in real time have the true perspective on the system. So practitioners need to be mindful of not only how they set up the system but how the system allows for true and honest feed back and adaptation. This work leads to the high quality programs that increase post-secondary outcomes across the board.