Spotlight on Restorative Justice

Rest. Justice uncropped2

If every type of community – family, school, town, city, nation – were guided by the principles of restorative justice, we would be a healthier happier bunch. That quickly became apparent to all who attended the April 13 Spotlight gathering on Restorative Justice at the home of Cam McKinley.

Three experts from Restorative Resources, a Santa Rosa-based leader in the field, shared with Impact members their work and their passion – Beatrice Camacho, Volunteer Manager, Susan Kinder, Executive Director, and Keith Hale, Board Member and Kenwood resident.

So how does restorative justice work in Sonoma County? Restorative Resources’ staff and community volunteers lead restorative conferences for youth and adults during which individuals impacted by wrong-doing – victim/s, community members, the wrong-doer and his or her family – are brought together through deep discussion and honest dialogue. They explore exactly what happened and who was affected. The goal is to reach understanding and healing, and determine what the wrong-doer must do to make amends.

Before the conversation begins, each member verbally agrees to abide by Circle Guidelines:

  • Speak from the heart: your truth, your experiences, your perspectives
  • Listen from the heart: let go of stories that make it hard to hear each other
  • Trust that you will know what to say: no need to rehearse
  • Say just enough: without feeling rushed, be concise and considerate of the time of others

Rest. Justice UncroppedFor over ten years Restorative Resources has worked with the Sonoma County Probation Department in implementing juvenile and adult offender programs. After more than 1,000 cases, the percentage of repeat offenders is less than 6%. Ninety-four percent of the victims involved are very satisfied and 98% of law enforcement are satisfied.

Rest. Justice chart

Every public high school in Santa Rosa, and others throughout the county, utilize restorative principles, with teachers, staff and volunteers trained by Restorative Resources to create a restorative learning environment. Closer to home, Restorative Resources staff members have led successful circles in Sonoma Valley elementary schools with students who are disruptive or find it hard to fit in. Circles will be offered in local middle schools as well.

Restorative justice is far more than numbers and statistics. “It’s a philosophy,” Susan Kinder explained. “The principles of restorative justice can be used from preschoolers to adult offenders.” Restoring relationships, restoring balance, restoring responsibility are transformative ways of looking at the roles we all play in society. It’s about fractured communities coming back together again.