When speaking about restorative justice Howard Zehr talks about the importance of changing our perspective on crime: from “what laws have been broken” to “what needs to be done to make things right and whose obligations are they?” Fourteen people with different histories, experiences, ideas, communities and stories gathered at East Side Lutheran August 14th and 15th to explore what it means to come together in community to begin thinking about crime and conflict through a new lens—and what that means in the ways our friends and neighbors and institutions can choose to respond to it.
The training workshop was facilitated by John Gehm, Restore’s director who talked about the history of the organization and the development of restorative justice around the world and how it compares to the way we typically think about options for responding to crime and conflict; about the various ways we as a society understand punishment, accountability, responsibility, and victim needs.
Participants saw various examples of victim-offender mediation in practice and learned about the research that supports it. Group members were led through a variety of activities, exercises, role plays and conversations, many of which were conducted in circle. Over two days participants learned about the victim-offender mediation program, how it works—and why.
They heard from Court Services officer and former Restore board member Amy Berthelson explain how the Restore works with the courts and probation, the types of cases referred and the benefits to participants and the court system. She also answered questions from the group about various aspects of how the justice system works.
The goal of the training was to provide people with general information and enough hands-on practice with the mediation process to be able to decide if they want to take further training to become mediators in the program and take the Advanced Mediation training.
“We came in as nervous strangers and left as a community.” Said another participant, “What I learned here has been exciting, eye-opening—almost overwhelming—but I also realize how much more there is to do and to learn.”