Paper by Robert van Pagée, presented in a plenary session at "Improving Citizenship & Restoring Community," the IIRP''s 10th International Institute for Restorative Practices World Conference, November 7-9, 2007, Budapest, Hungary.

Paper by Bruce Schenk, presented in a plenary session at "Improving Citizenship & Restoring Community," the IIRP''s 10th International Institute for Restorative Practices World Conference, November 7-9, 2007, Budapest, Hungary.

Paper by Gyöngyvér Magyar, presented in a plenary session at "Improving Citizenship & Restoring Community," the IIRP''s 10th International Institute for Restorative Practices World Conference, November 7-9, 2007, Budapest, Hungary.

Paper by Mária Kerényi, presented in a plenary session at "Improving Citizenship & Restoring Community," the IIRP's 10th International Institute for Restorative Practices World Conference, November 7-9, 2007, Budapest, Hungary.

Paper by Eva Fahlström Borg, presented in a plenary session at "Improving Citizenship & Restoring Community," the IIRP''s 10th International Institute for Restorative Practices World Conference, November 7-9, 2007, Budapest, Hungary.

An Eigen Kracht family group conference (FGC) circle.An Eigen Kracht family group conference (FGC) circle.Earlier this year Eigen Kracht, a non-governmental social service agency in Amsterdam, Netherlands, conducted its 1000th family group conference (known as family group decision making in the US). By the time eForum got in touch with Eigen Kracht’s founder and director Rob van Pagée in September 2007 that number had already reached 1200.

“The pace is accelerating,” said van Pagée. “When we started in 2001 we trained 14 independent coordinators and two teams of facilitators but had no conferences. It took five months to get the first conference. Everybody said, ‘This is a great idea... but not for my clients.’”

Van Pagée started his career as a social worker dealing with child abuse cases, so he understands the system. “I had to go to the mother and kids and the father (who might be drunk or absent), speak to the school and the home physician (never neighbors, because of privacy issues). I returned to my supervisor and said, ‘This is what’s happening. I think we should do this and that.’ This is how decisions are made. Then you go back to the family and say, ‘This is the plan.’”

Ted Wachtel gives his inauguration speech, applauded by Mr. George Southworth, After a preamble acknowledging those in attendance and acceptance of his new responsibilities as president, Wachtel began his speech.

Thirty years ago my wife Susan and I, both public school teachers, were looking for solutions to the increasingly challenging behavior of young people in schools, families and communities. We left public education, founded the first of several non-profit organizations and developed schools, group homes and other programs for delinquent and at-risk youth. As time went on we realized that the successful strategies we were using with the troubled young people in our programs had implications for all young people, and for adults as well.

We and our colleagues also got involved with an innovative approach in the field of criminal justice, called “restorative justice,” which provides opportunities for victims, offenders, and their family and friends, to meet and, to the extent possible, repair the harm caused by a crime. This development in criminal justice, giving people an opportunity to express their feelings and ideas and have a say in resolving the conflict, matched parallel developments in other fields.

Alyssa (not her real name), 18, made some unfortunate choices over the last few years, some with legal consequences. But her situation improved recently, thanks to a Family Group Decision Making (FGDM) conference facilitated by the Community Service Foundation (CSF) in Pennsylvania, USA, one of the IIRP’s demonstration programs. By involving Alyssa’s family and friends and tapping into their collective feelings of responsibility and concern, FGDM encouraged her to commit to positive changes in her life.

On probation and unable to function in school, Alyssa was in and out of alternative programs, youth detention facilities and group homes.

Lorenn Walker, Kat Brady and Ted Sakai speak about An unusual program developed in Hawaii is helping inmates learn new skills, reconnect with their loved ones and prepare for life outside the prison walls.

The Restorative Circle Project, which began at Waiawa Correctional Facility on the island of O’ahu, brings inmates together with the people they have wronged to find ways to repair the harm, explore forgiveness and make plans for their transition back into the community.

The project is one of two restorative justice prison initiatives launched by Lorenn Walker of Hawaii Friends of Civic and Law Related Education. In addition to the Restorative Circle project, Walker also offers the inmates restorative justice facilitator training, a 12-week program that teaches communication and conflict resolution skills.

“I’m on a mission to help transform the justice system and make it healthy and healing,” said Walker, a public health educator and former trial lawyer who has worked in many aspects of the legal system, from family court to representing the Hawaii state prison system as deputy attorney general.

Joseph Roy, former principal of Springfield Township High School, now Springfield Township superindendent, in PA, USA, utilizies restorative practices to build a positive school community. 

A report issued by the American Psychological Association (APA) at their summer 2006 annual meeting found that zero tolerance policies in use throughout U.S. school districts have not been effective in reducing violence
or promoting learning in school. The report called for a change in these policies and indicated a need for alternatives, including restorative practices such as restorative justice conferences.

The report was written by an APA task force, led by Cecil R. Reynolds, Ph.D., of Texas A&M University, which was charged with reviewing the effectiveness of zero tolerance policies in American schools. In essence, the report found that “zero tolerance has not been shown to improve school climate or school safety.”

Although it seems intuitive that removing disruptive students from schools will improve the school experience for others and that severe punishment will improve the behavior of both the punished and those who witness the punishment, the task force report asserts that the available evidence “consistently flies in the face of these beliefs.”

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