View papers from the 8th International Conference on Conferencing held October 18-20, 2006, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA.

A lively discussion at “Down Country Roads, from Small Towns to Inner Cities: Restorative Justice in Illinois–See How it Works,” presented by Sally Wolf, Karen Lambert, Edith Crigler, Gary Balgemann, Elizabeth Vastine, Robert Spicer, D. Marie Goff, Donald Goff and Patricia Zamora. Photo by Thomas Kosa
 

The eighth International Conference on Conferencing, Circles and other Restorative Practices, "The Next Step, Developing Restorative Communities, Part 2," was a big success, according to participant feedback. The conference was held in the IIRP’s hometown of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA, on October 18-20, 2006. More than 300 people joined in the three-day event, from Australia, Belgium, eight provinces of Canada, Costa Rica, England, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden, Taiwan and 25 states of the USA, plus Washington, D.C. and Guam.

In the plenary sessions alone, four nations were represented: England, Scotland, Israel and the USA. More information on the conference, including the schedule, papers and participant comments are available here: http://www.iirp.edu/beth06/index.html.

As is always true at IIRP conferences, a feeling of community quickly developed among participants. Although most had never met before, attendees found that they had plenty to talk about regarding their restorative work, doing things with young people and adults, not to them or for them.

The enthusiasm for learning and sharing was palpable in and out of the official presentations. Many "breakout sessions" spilled into overtime as people compared notes on the nitty gritty of their restorative work. To cite one instance, the session: "Communities Within Communities: A Partnership Between a School-Based and Court-Based Restorative Program," led by Virginia Wiley of the Bluewater School District in Ontario, Canada, became a discussion about the issues session participants were facing implementing restorative programs in their own communities.

Paper by Laura Rush, presented in a plenary session at "The Next Step: Developing Restorative Communities, Part 2," the IIRP''s 8th International Conference on Conferencing, Circles and other Restorative Practices, October 18-20, 2006.

Paper by Gwynedd Lloyd, presented in a plenary session at "The Next Step: Developing Restorative Communities, Part 2," the IIRP''s 8th International Conference on Conferencing, Circles and other Restorative Practices, October 18-20, 2006.

Paper by Christopher Hey and Gail Ryan, presented in a plenary session at "The Next Step: Developing Restorative Communities, Part 2," the IIRP''s 8th International Conference on Conferencing, Circles and other Restorative Practices, October 18-20, 2006.

Paper by Anat Goldstein, presented in a plenary session at "The Next Step: Developing Restorative Communities, Part 2," the IIRP''s 8th International Conference on Conferencing, Circles and other Restorative Practices, October 18-20, 2006.

Paper by Daniel Van Ness, presented in a plenary session at "The Next Step: Developing Restorative Communities, Part 2," the IIRP''s 8th International Conference on Conferencing, Circles and other Restorative Practices, October 18-20, 2006.

Paper by Mark Finnis and Paul Moran, presented in a plenary session at "The Next Step: Developing Restorative Communities, Part 2," the IIRP''s 8th International Conference on Conferencing, Circles and other Restorative Practices, October 18-20, 2006.

By Joshua Wachtel

Graham Chaseling, creator of The Game, at Parklea Correctional Complex, New South Wales, AustraliaGrahame Chaseling, a 20-year veteran of corrections in New South Wales, Australia, critic of traditional criminal justice and restorative practices devotee for over 15 years, developed a unique model for supervising adult offenders in community-based programs. He calls it The Game.

Chaseling discovered the limitations of punitive justice when he began work as a prison officer. He was disturbed to see inmates stripped of responsibility and free will: “From arrest to release from the criminal justice system, whether gaol [jail] or supervision... decisions will be made for them. Things will be done to them, or required of them. In terms of fair process or meaningful engagement, the chances are that very little will be achieved.”*

By Laura Mirsky

Members of Parliament David Laws and Nick Clegg meet with Chard Police beat manager William Geddes; CICJP implementation group chair John Lacey; Avon and Somerset Police chair Henry Hobhouse; CICJP coordinator Valerie Keitch and Somerset County Councilor Jill Shortland. Photo courtesy of Chard & Ilminster News.

The people of the neighboring towns of Chard and Ilminster, in Somerset County, England, have taken justice in their community into their own hands. They established the Chard and Ilminster Community Justice Panel (CICJP) and are handling local cases themselves, in a restorative manner, with decidedly positive results.

What makes the CICJP different from other community justice boards is the restorative process. As in restorative conferences, as practiced by the IIRP, the CICJP brings victims, offenders and their supporters together face to face to deal with the consequences of an offense and decide how to repair the harm. Victims tell offenders how they have been affected by an offense, and offenders have a chance to take responsibility and make amends. Supporters express themselves, too.

Victims, offenders and their supporters are asked a series of restorative questions. Offender questions include “What happened?” and “Who do you think has been affected by your actions?” Victim questions include “How do you feel about what happened?” and “What has been the hardest thing for you?” At the end, all participants sign a conference agreement.

By Abbey J. Porter

The emotional and psychological impact of crime can last far beyond the incident itself, in some cases affecting victims’ lives for years. A groundbreaking study has shown, however, that restorative justice conferences can mitigate those effects and help victims heal and move forward more quickly.

Dr. Caroline M. AngelDr. Caroline M. Angel, a lecturer in criminology at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States, studied the impact of restorative conferencing on post-traumatic stress symptoms in victims of burglary and robbery. Her findings were clear: Conferences reduce the psychologically traumatic effects of crime.

“The most striking thing was that conferences reduced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder,” she said. “What you have here is a one-time program that’s effective in producing benefits for the majority of people.”