The Restorative mindset respects the scale of our interpersonal landscape.
“Respect” literally means “to look again,” to reconsider what you have taken for granted. When you, me, or anyone views our same old world together, aspects of it look different when using a Restorative lens. Howard Zehr, the grandfather of RJP in this country, established this perspective in his book, Changing Lenses (1990), the seminal work that launched American’s version of the RJ movement, which was already well underway in other countries. Zehr is the guy in the picture above looking through the lens of his fingers. He’s a criminologist, but also an amateur photographer who trained himself in the art of looking.
He says, “We in the West view crime through a particular lens. The “criminal justice” process that uses that lens fails to meet many of the needs of either the victim or the offender. The process neglects victims while failing to meet the expressed goals of holding offenders accountable and deterring crime.”
Major or minor, conflict will always be with us.
After Changing Lenses shined a new light on the dysfunctional criminal justice system, people in different sectors began looking upstream to the human contexts where weedy, offensive behavior first starts to grow. Sadly, neglected or unsupervised kids were developing feral, unsocialized behaviors which then get punished by the people whom the behavior offends or harms – family, school, neighbors. There, upstream, was the cradle to school to prison pipeline, pushing kids who need help further away from positive connections with community.
Concerned activists began to examine the strange assumption that we can hurt people into healthy behavior, at whatever age. Little evidence shows that punishment works. Instead it’s a wack-a-mole strategy, beating down one conflict only to generate others (like resentment, rebellion, rage). If punishment doesn’t work, what does? Answers lay in ancient, indigenous people’s “tribal circle” traditions, which are specifically designed to repair relationships and strengthen the community fabric. These “circles” became the model for anticipating, preventing and handling interpersonal conflict.
Restorative Practices, then, are the powerful, effective ways that regular people like you and me can apply them to everyday life. A skillful, curious question, for example, can clear up a misunderstanding, spark a friendship, inspire an apology, or make space for someone to say what’s really on their minds. These mundane successes will also be among the nooks and dells we’ll also visit in our travels
There’s so much to see! Join us.