Q&A: Training Restorative Justice Facilitators to Understand Structural Inequities

Q: How can I help the facilitators I train in my program to understand the structural dimensions of crime? I worry that they are too focused on the interpersonal dimensions of crime and are ignoring the larger harms and roots of conflict in race-, class-, and gender-based systemic inequities.

A: This is a common issue in restorative justice programs around the world and one that is important to work hard to address. Fania DavisAnita Wadhwa, and David Dyck (among others) offer some helpful resources.

This shortcoming in facilitators’ understanding is due in part to the fact that practitioners are generally not trained to think about restorative justice work within a systemic, structural frame of reference, and therefore, by default, tend to focus solely on personal responsibility without understanding the structural roots of the conflict or wrongdoing.

Practitioners need to be trained not only in interpersonal communication skills, but also the ability to recognize and address the way in which crimes and conflict reflect larger systemic problems.

One of Dyck’s recommendations is to teach facilitators theoretical models that will help them to grasp this larger issue. For example, Maire Dugan’s Nested Theory of Conflict provides a framework for understanding interrelated types of conflict in a community. Here is a game from www.RestorativeTeachingTools.com to help your facilitators understand this model.

Nested-Theory-of-Conflict