Family group decision making (FGDM), known in New Zealand, the UK and Europe as family group conferencing or FGC, is proving to be a beneficial restorative practice to help reintegrate prison inmates back into society. This article addresses restorative FGDM/FGC programs in prisons in Adams County, Pennsylvania, USA, and in Hungary.

Beginning in New Zealand in 1989 in the youth justice and child welfare systems, FGDM/FGC operates according to the premise that the direct involvement of a family group works better to solve a family’s issues than the efforts of professionals alone to solve those issues for people. A key ingredient of an FGDM meeting is “Family Alone Time,” when the family group is left alone, without professionals in the room, to devise plans to solve their own issues. These plans are then evaluated by professionals for legal and safety concerns.

This paper by Lorenn Walker and Leslie A. Hayashi covers facilitatedrestorative justice processes, combined with solution-focused brieftherapy, with subjects who plead guilty to crimes ranging fromharassment to negligent homicide. Program results were highly positivein terms of both participant satisfaction and recidivism.

The IIRP’s Second Class of Master’s Degree Recipients: Front Row, left to right: Marie-Isabelle Pautz, Mary-Lynn LaSalivia-Keyte. Second row: Viola Bush, Mary Ellen Mannix, Perrine M. Weierbach, Deanna L. Webb, Jennifer Lyn Barvitskie, Gloria Alvarez Pouleson. Back row: Nicole A. Sutterby, Benjamin Emery, Kevin W. Eisenhart, Lemi Daba Gudeta, Bonnie L. Witt. (Not pictured: Darian Smith.)The second commencement of the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) Graduate School, on June 20, 2009, was special because of the 14 graduates. Five received the Master of Restorative Practices and Education: Kevin W. Eisenhart, Mary Ellen Mannix, Gloria Alvarez Pouleson, Nicole A. Sutterby and Deanna L. Webb; and nine, the Master of Restorative Practices and Youth Counseling: Jennifer Lyn Barvitskie, Viola Bush, Benjamin Emery, Lemi Daba Gudeta, Mary-Lynn LaSalvia-Keyte, Marie-Isabelle Pautz, Darian Smith, Perrine M. Weierbach and Bonnie L. Witt.

IIRP president Ted Wachtel began the ceremony by answering the question he thought might be in the minds of audience members: What is restorative practices?

The evaluation by the University of Sheffield,entitled "Does restorative justice affect reconviction?", reports onseven trials beginning in 2001, conducted by Cambridge University andfunded by the U.K. Home Office. Click here to read the full report (PDF).

 

West Philadelphia High School has undergone a transformation. It has been on Pennsylvania’s “Persistently Dangerous Schools” list for six years, but the implementation of restorative practices and strong leadership, headed by principal Saliyah Cruz, have made a huge difference. The culture and climate of the school have improved significantly, violent and serious incidents have plummeted, and rates of discipline procedures such as suspensions and expulsions have decreased dramatically.

“When I came here [in fall 2007],” said Cruz, “One of the first things I noticed was that there was not a great deal of respect between adults and students. There was a small group of students who were chronically involved in the discipline loop. So obviously the detentions and suspensions weren’t communicating a message that kids were receiving, because they were still repeating the same behavior. Adults were getting frustrated and no one was learning anything here.”

In this 36-page PDF document, IIRP Director of Research Sharon Lewis presents disciplinary and other datafrom U.S., Canadian and British schools that have implementedrestorative practices. From the preface: "Taken together and ''in theirown words,''it is clear that restorative practices is having a positiveeffect on the lives of many students and is changing the climate ofmany schools."

Police in roughly 50 percent of counties in England and Wales employ some form of restorative justice (RJ). Constables in districts including Dorset (southwest), Cheshire and Lancashire (northwest), Hull (northeast) and Norfolk (east) are actively making restorative practices (RP) their first line of defense — at officers’ discretion — for dealing with neighborhood disputes, first-time and low-level youth offenders, youth crime in schools, and some adult cases.

The movement toward RP is partly a reaction to national policy targets emphasizing “sanction detection,” which increased the number of crimes prosecuted. As a consequence, prisons became overcrowded and the number of youth brought into the criminal justice system for the first time nearly doubled, many for crimes that formerly would have been dealt with by schools, parents, the community or the neighborhood “bobby.” Also, said Garry Shewan, assistant chief constable of Cheshire Police, “Officers have concentrated on the ‘low-hanging fruit’ of detections achieved with the least effort, ensuring that few persistent criminals were amongst the increases in detected crimes. Performance management has brought many more offenders to justice, only they are the wrong offenders” (Shewan, 2009).

John Bailie is assistant director of training and consulting at the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP), Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA, and a lecturer at the IIRP Graduate School. The following are excerpts from his paper presented at the First International Restorative Justice Conference: Humanizing the Approach to Criminal Justice, in Oaxaca, México, September 23-26, 2008.

“Power” can be defined as the ability to exert influence over one’s environment and play an active role in the decisions that affect one most. Healthy communities set external boundaries while fostering inner control and social discipline.

Restorative practices provide participatory processes that determine social power and promote healthy self-discipline and social discipline. Restorative practices greatly broaden the scope of restorative justice by offering a unifying model that can optimize all uses of power and authority, not just responses to crime and wrongdoing. By maximizing social engagement and participation in both proactive community building and reactive responses to wrongdoing, restorative practices provide a philosophical framework and practical mechanisms to foster individual and social health.

In 2004 the Brazilian Ministry of Justice received a small UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) grant to launch the country’s first official restorative justice (RJ) pilot projects. Recognizing the unique social context of urban violence in Brazil, the projects brought together school administrators, judges, court workers, prison authorities, social service agencies and local community leaders to create a broad restorative response to the most challenging breakdowns in community safety. While justly known for their creative celebration of life, Brazilians also live with glaring wealth imbalances and the normalization of violence: Murder is the principle cause of death for people under 25.

In Rio de Janeiro, 20 percent of the population lives in crowded favela shantytowns — improvised communities of cramped, shoddy, multi-story houses. Drug gangs are the city’s largest youth employer. Education, family life and social cohesion are all hugely impacted by fear, improvised martial law and the struggle to make ends meet.

In the mid-1990s, Dominic Barter began working with favela residents, including drug gang members, to help them strengthen nonviolent options for working with young people. “I saw violence as a monologue,” said Barter. “All the state and gang responses to violence were more of the same. I wanted to create a dialogue.” In early 2005 he helped organize the country’s first public presentation on restorative practices, at the Brazil-based annual World Social Forum. The Ministry of Justice heard Barter’s presentation and hired him to develop a conferencing model and train facilitators for two of three new pilot projects, in São Paulo and Porto Alegre.

 

Marie-Isabelle Pautz is a One-Year FastTrack Master’s Degree candidate in Restorative Practices and Youth Counseling at the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP). For her YC/ED 510, Professional Learning Group (PLG) Seminar: Restorative Project, she is implementing restorative practices in a preschool. Before attending the IIRP, Marie-Isabelle worked with Turning Point Partners in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, introducing restorative practices to schools, youth court and juvenile detention centers. She also facilitated restorative conferences in schools and codirected a homeless shelter in Rochester, New York, USA. The following are excerpts from her IIRP PLG report.

I am a part-time assistant teacher at a preschool in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA. I’m instituting restorative practices with our 13-pupil class  of four-year-olds. “Restorative” means participation by everyone affected by decisions, widening the circle, building social capital, separating the deed from the doer, and a focus on responsibilities and effects of actions, rather than blaming and labeling (Zehr, 1990; Wachtel & McCold, 2000).

We have a very healthy school with a few problems, such as disputes about sharing, turns to lead or speak and place in line, as well as exclusion, class disruption, complaining, arguing, running indoors, throwing, pushing and unsafe behavior. Assets include low pupil-teacher ratio and small class and school size.

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