Frequently Asked Questions About Restorative
What is Restorative Justice?
Restorative justice is one part of a larger way of thinking commonly referred to as “Restorative Practices.” It is an approach to justice that focuses on the needs of the victims and the offenders, as well as the involved community, instead of satisfying abstract legal principles or punishing the offender. It can be used in conjunction with or as an alternative to our current system of justice. Currently the system of justice in our schools, families, and communities focuses on the rules broken, who broke them, and what punishments will fit the crime. The focus remains on the offender and the rules broken rather than the community living with the impact of these actions.
“Children need our love the most when we think they deserve it the least”
It is important to note that RP/RJ isn’t a program or an approach, it is a new paradigm and a new way of thinking about human behavior. It is an approach that recognizes that punishment has been shown to do more harm than good when teaching discipline and responding to perceived wrongdoing. Punishments can be laced with repercussions and lessons that may not be what we intend. All too often we believe we are teaching discipline and responsibility and instead we teach that the way to get what you want is through power-over tactics, threats, and pushing people away rather than bringing them in close. At best, this teaches youth (and adults) that we only love you when you are doing it the way we want. We get compliance at the expense of influence over future behavior.
So much of the violence we have on the planet stems from the belief that others have wronged us and therefore they “should” be punished. In our schools, our homes, and our streets we are always trying to make people “pay” for what they have done. We misguidedly believe that people learn valuable lessons from punishment and nothing could be further from the truth. Punishment has several big problems:
- Punishment is generally focused on revenge and retribution. It is concerned with events that have already happen (the past.)
- Punishment teaches kids to lie to avoid getting into trouble or being punished.
- Punishment teaches people that you can control and power-over others rather than work with them for change.
- Punishment rarely results in positive changes in behavior; may increase subversiveness or result in temporary suppression of behavior; at best, produces compliance.
- Punishment reinforces a failure identity; essentially negative and short term, without sustained personal involvement of either teacher or learner.
- Punishment teaches people what you DON’T WANT and does little to help teach what you DO want.
- Punishment sends a message that when you are doing your best and make mistakes, people will hurt you more.
- Punishment teaches that threats of harm, taking valued things away, and sending people away are valid ways of getting your way. It models bullying.
- Punishment FAILS TO TEACH VALUABLE COGNITIVE AND EMOTIONAL SKILLS KIDS NEED TO REGULATE THEIR BEHAVIOR!!
Time Out’s vs. Time In’s
An ongoing myth of parenting and schools is that when children misbehave, the time honored “time out” is a nonviolent and responsible response to unwanted behavior. There are many issues with this thinking and the biggest issues is that it sends a message to children and youth that they are only loved when they are doing it “right” or perfect. We all make messes. We all make mistakes. Time outs send the message that when these things happen adults will send them away rather than pull them in and support them. This article goes into further detail about the issues with “time outs.”
Punishment versus Discipline
So many of us has come to link teaching discipline to punishment. This is so widespread of a myth that we now believe that discipline IS punishment. The fact is these are two very different things. Punishment is an external consequence meant to inflict suffering on another so they will change their behavior. It is a flawed thinking that we have the power to change people’s behavior by making them suffer. Discipline on the other hand is internal and deals with natural not created consequences. (You go out in the rain, you get wet). Here is a helpful handout on the differences between punishment v discipline.
Here are some tips to end the use of punishment.
Examples of Restorative Justice
It is important to emphasize that RJ is not a program or gimmick approach to behavior or justice, it is a new way of thinking that moves away from punitive measures that rely on suffering and towards approaches that focus on healing, accountability, and change. Below are just some examples of how restorative practices move to restorative justice.
Victim/Offender Dialogue (sometimes referred to as victim/offender mediation)
Reparative Panels (Sometimes referred to as Juvenile Review Boards)
Socio-Emotional Learning (SEL)
Training is essential to making restorative successful in schools. A minimum of 5 hours of Restorative 101 is required to get the staff and administration on board and on the same page about the goals schools have with bringing restorative in the picture. This would need to be followed by additional training in Nonviolent Communication, circle process, and trauma informed schools.
Joe Brummer has created a 5-day intensive training in Restorative Practices and Nonviolent Communication. Using games, exercises, video, lecture, and role plays, this training seeks to give administrators and teachers the skills they need to get Restorative practices implemented at the classroom and administrative level. This 2-day training is required for schools looking to work with Joe to implement school-wide Restorative Practices.
It is also needed that there is leadership. It is helpful to have a restorative practices implementation workgroup made up of teachers, staff, and students when possible. The most successful schools will also have either a part-time or better still, a full-time RJ Coordinator. In a school wide implementation, Joe will come in and shadow this person or the dean of students to help guide the current practices for handling referrals and in the moment issues to be more restorative.
Schools also need parents to be informed and supportive. Joe will come in and work with the PTA/PTO and parents to train and explain restorative practices. He will also help parents begin to use the practices in the home.
School-wide implementation can be a process. It may take several years to fully implement the practices. Schools may want to start small and begin with one or two grade levels before expanding to the full school. This gives the administration time to adjust their practices.
Restorative Practices range from the informal one on one conversations we have all the way to the formal community based responses to conflict and events of harm like conferences. Especially in the school setting and also for anyone working with youth, often times our current blame based language structures cause us more problems then they solve. Often, in our attempts of call out unwanted or unsafe behaviors with youth, we trigger and escalate the issues rather than connecting and gaining influence. We become so focused on the short term compliance we want, we gain it at the expense of long term influence.
Nonviolent Communication (NVC), developed by Marshall Rosenberg, gives us a way to communicate with each other that is focused on long term influence by creating connection instead of fighting to get compliance. NVC is both a process and a philosophy of being. Each teaches us that instead of looking for what we will do differently in our classrooms, it is about who will choose to “be” in our classrooms.
In some models of restorative practices emphasis is place on using “affective statements” rather than judgments. In the work Joe Brummer is doing, he has replaced simple affective statements with Nonviolent Communication to both listen with empathy and speak with honesty. It is a way of trading praise for gratitude, blame for accountability, and judgement into empathy.
When training with Joe Brummer, a minimum of at least one full day (7-hours) will be devoted to sharing these skills and philosophies with educators. This will help to entrench restorative practices into the hearts and minds of those training to implement it.
You can learn even more about “affective statements” and the use of NVC by reading this article on Joe’s Blog.