Rotary Global Grant Blog April 2018

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April was a great month and included my 27th birthday! I had a bit of a cold on the real day, but still had a lovely low-key celebration and spent the weekend enjoying the beauty of Castlepoint and feeling grateful for an amazing past year of life!

This month, the work we are doing to build a restorative community was featured on the VUW webpage. Haley and I were interviewed for the article, which you can read here.

Haley and I also delivered a Restorative Justice Facilitator Training for Accommodations staff at the university. It was a wonderful group and is so exciting to see the community of restorative practitioners and advocates at the university growing!

A highlight of the month was Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaking at Victoria University to announce the end to new contracts for offshore oil and gas drilling in New Zealand. It was very hopeful and inspiring to see a leader taking concrete steps to address climate change. It is also personally so inspiring to see a young woman and expecting mother as the leader of the country and all that she has accomplished already in her role. The future feels bright!

You can read the latest issue of the Rotary Peacebuilder Newsletter on the topic of gun control here. My contribution tells the story of a restorative justice response to reckless endangerment with a gun.

In preparation for the Restorative Justice EdX course, which begins on May 1st, VUW has posted the mock pre-conference and conference videos we created online. If you would like to see an example of what restorative justice looks like in action, please enjoy the videos below.

Victim Post-Incident Interview:

Offender Post-Incident Interview:

Pre-Conference Meeting with Offender:

Restorative Justice Conference:

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Video: Mock Restorative Justice Process

In preparation for Victoria University’s EdX course on Restorative Justice, I was asked to facilitate a mock restorative justice process to be used as an example throughout the course. If you are curious to see an example of what a restorative justice process looks like, this is a great resource!

Please note that both the pre-conference and the conference processes are significantly shorter than they would be in real life. In real life, each meeting is generally at least twice as long as shown, giving the opportunity to ask additional questions to dive deeper into the incident, impacts and needs. In real life, participants would also likely have a support person present.

Victim Post-Incident Interview:

Offender Post-Incident Interview:

Pre-Conference Meeting with Offender:

Restorative Justice Conference:

“Living Restoratively” by Victoria University of Wellington

Victoria University of Wellington recently featured an article about the work Haley and I are doing at the university and beyond. Check it out at the link below!

Living restoratively

Two Victoria University researchers are using their unique skill sets to support the restorative justice efforts at the University. Read more here.

Haley Farrar and Lindsey Pointer

“If we can get people to sit down together and have a space where respectful conversation can unfold, then empathy is going to follow. It gives people a chance to understand the need and the story behind what happened,” Lindsey says.

“The empathy goes both ways—the person who caused the harm develops an understanding of the impacts that were felt by others, and those who were impacted learn to see the person who caused the harm as a person, not just as one bad thing that happened. They get a chance to encounter each other’s humanness.”

Rotary Global Grant Blog March 2018

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March was full of more amazing opportunities! My colleague, Haley, and I were asked to deliver a training in restorative practices for Wesley Community Action, a local non-profit. We focused on restorative skills and tools like the circle and restorative conversations that participants could use right away with their clients, colleagues, families and friends. It was also great to work with this group because they are the referring agency for the Korero Tahi pilot, which uses restorative circles to address harms experienced by older people. I am one of the facilitators for the pilot, so it was great to get to talk through how circles could be helpful for their clients and to troubleshoot possible issues together.

The highlight of the month was getting the opportunity to teach two Introduction to Restorative Justice workshops at Manawatu Prison. You can read more about that experience here. It was both humbling and invigorating to get to share the restorative justice philosophy and approach to conflict and wrongdoing with inmates and I learned a great deal from the experience.

You can check out this month’s edition of the of the Rotary District 5540 Peacebuilder Newsletter here. I also contributed to the most recent issue of the Restorative Well, the NACRJ newsletter, which you can read here.

Beginning May 1st, Victoria University of Wellington is offering a free course through edX titled Restorative Justice and Practice: Emergence of a Social Movement. It is taught by three incredible instructors – my two wonderful PhD supervisors and my close friend and colleague, Haley. I also make an appearance in the course as facilitator of a mock restorative justice conference and in an interview about the Restorative University efforts at VUW. If you are interested in learning more about restorative justice, check out the video preview below and enroll in the course here.

Restorative Justice Education in Prison Reflection 1: Understanding the Web

In March, my partner, Sam Seiniger, and I had the opportunity to deliver two introductions to restorative justice workshops at Manawatu Prison to small groups of inmates. Both sessions produced really fascinating conversations and left us all with something to think about. One of the participants even asked if he could take an extra worksheet with the three restorative questions to hang on his wall to continue reflecting on what he had learned. Similarly, I was left with a lot to think about, which I hope to process in a series of posts here.

The first story I would like to share is about a spider web.

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In restorative practices, we often use the image of a web to describe community. The community is a web of relationships, we are all connected to each other, and all that we do impacts the other people in our community. When an incident of harm (like a crime or also often the act of imprisoning someone) occurs, relationships are harmed and the web is damaged. When the web is damaged, it needs to be repaired, and that is what the restorative justice process seeks to accomplish. This metaphor can be illustrated in a number of different ways including arranging pieces of string in a web connecting training participants across a circle that can be cut and re-tied, photos of webs, and drawings. For this workshop, I had drawn a web on the whiteboard. When I mentioned the incident of harm, I erased one of the connecting strands of the web and pointed to how the strength of the entire web would be weakened by losing that connection. When I talked about repair, I re-drew that portion of the web, making it complete again.

During the course of the conversation about the web, one of the participants raised his hand. He said he liked the image, but that he has a pet spider in his cell that he watches a lot and his web doesn’t look anything like that. He described the complete mess of a web his spider lives in and said there is no way it could ever be repaired. He said that is how his community feels too; the web is broken in a million different places. There’s nothing you could really do to repair it.

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The conversation continued and we talked a bit about how even in a terribly broken web, a response to harm (or “justice”) could still strive to repair and heal rather than further fracture. That is one thing that sets restorative justice apart from the conventional system: it strives to do no further harm to the victim, offender or the community. Still, this image of his spider’s irreversibly broken web, of the community full of holes and hurt, stuck with me. It is an important reminder for restorative practitioners that as we work with people to repair harm after a specific incident, we are always working within the context of pre-existing harms. These harms may be interpersonal, institutional, structural, or historical. Each person we work will has a lived experience in which they have both harmed and been harmed. So often, the root of the behaviors we seek to address are grounded in that larger broken web.

This is something I hope that I personally and the restorative justice movement as a whole will come to understand more deeply. Already, we see the expansion of focus in the movement from restorative justice as a response to crime to the use of restorative philosophy and practices towards creating more just communities. This means addressing institutional, structural and historical harms with an aim to create equal voice where it has been absent before and to fully explore and seek to repair the harms that have been caused. It also means re-imaging the structures of our societies in a way that encourages greater awareness of our innate connection, a way that breeds empathy. One place to start would be with reconsidering the way that prisons are run.  That is the topic I will address in my next reflection post.