Category Archives: Community

Mediation training


Information night

Restore will host its second Public Information reception at the downtown branch of the Sioux Falls Public Library.  This will be an opportunity to learn about restorative justice, see examples of victim-offender mediation, and strategies for increasing the use of these successful  programs in our community.  There will be opportunities for questions and answers with the director of Restore, John Gehm.   The event begins at 6:30 and ends at 8:00.  Refreshments will be provided.

We incarcerate too many youth and our government is broke

We incarcerate too many youth and our government is broke—we’ve heard both laments lately in the news. The cry goes up for an effective way to deal with youthful offenders—a way that is cost effective, proven, humane, and rehabilitative. The answer is here: Restorative Justice.

Restorative Justice is an age-old way of dealing with infractions upon societal norms. It involves those who have been wronged, and allows them to have a say in the outcome. It holds the perpetrator directly responsible for the wrong-doing, and seeks to reintegrate him or her into the community. It is an alternative to incarceration that reduces recidivism and costs, and provides better emotional outcomes for victims and offenders. It involves a face-to-face meeting between the parties to get answers and provide accountability. Meetings are facilitated by an experienced mediator.

RESTORE, Inc, formerly the Victim-Offender Mediation Program, has offered this service in southeastern South Dakota for nearly 20 years.  The program is underutilized, however, and is ready to step in today to alleviate budget and other problems associated with nonviolent juvenile offenders.  Restorative Justice programs have been used across the United States for over 25 years, but are based in indigenous practices that have been in use for thousands of years.  Dozens of studies exist to prove their effectiveness. In South Dakota, the Center for Restorative Justice in Rapid City was created under the leadership of Judge Merton B. Tice, Jr. in 1997, and mediates many cases each year. I helped set up programs in Indiana, New Hampshire, and Michigan that have been in operation for decades. As a consultant to the National Institute of Corrections, I have evaluated the effectiveness of such programs and have published many articles in the field.  I know it works.

It’s time for South Dakota to stop thinking about punishment only in terms of jail and prison.  Thinking about crime through the lens of restorative justice translates into a philosophy of  making things right—for the victim, the offender, and the community as a whole. RESTORE is ready to put Restorative Justice to work. The question is, is South Dakota ready for a better approach?

Encountering Forgiveness Workshop

Forgiveness Workshop at University of Sioux Falls

The University of Sioux Falls presents “Encountering Forgiveness,” a workshop led by Dr. John Gehm, on April 15-16.  Through exploratory exercises and skill building, participants will learn to  apply “practical forgiveness”—in its spiritual, ethical, psychological, and interpersonal dimensions.  Workshop hours are Friday from 4:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. and Saturday from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.  Cost is $120 for credit, and $40 for non credit.  Call 331-6781 to register.  Or call John Gehm at 338-6020 for more information

Burning Bridges

Bucks County, Pennsylvania

Information Night

A restorative justice information night will be held on Thursday, March 17 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in meeting room A at the downtown public library in Sioux Falls.

The event will open at 6:30 with a 35-minute documentary film shown at 7:00. The film, “Burning Bridges,” will be followed by a question and answer time with refreshments.

Burning Bridges recounts the aftermath of the arson of an historic wooden covered bridge by six local young men in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The focus is on the restorative conference that dealt with the shock and outrage of the community and how the young men were held accountable, as well as the fear and grief experienced by the perpetrators and their families in this small community.

The film provides an excellent introduction to restorative justice, which seeks to repair the harm done to victims of crime and hold offenders accountable in a meaningful, rehabilitative way. Restorative justice can also be used to resolve disputes in schools, churches, businesses, neighborhoods, and families. Information will be available on upcoming mediation workshop opportunities.

The event is sponsored by RESTORE, Inc., a non-profit organization which provides mediation services in southeastern South Dakota. For details, call (605) 338-6020 or email

Event: South Dakotans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

South Dakotans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is co-hosting an event this Thursday at The Spirit of the Peace United Church of Christ.  The event is at 7:30pm in the Fireside Room.  The event, which is being co-hosted by the Just Peace Action Group, is titled The Road to Abolition: Nearing the End of Capital Punishment in the United States and South Dakota.

The Spirit of the Peace Church is at 6509 S. Cliff Ave (73rd St. and Cliff Ave).

Travis Schulze, coordinator for SDADP, will speak about how recent national trends and the specifics of South Dakota’s death penalty have changed the conversation on capital punishment and will lead a discussion on how South Dakota can move towards death penalty repeal!  Refreshments will be provided.

finding the right words again…

This piece comes courtesy of Cherise Hairston director of the Dayton, Ohio Mediation Center and was sent to members of the National Association for Community Mediation.  It’s worth a read.  Where are there places in our corner of the world to address issues of in-civility, dis-respect, and failure of desire–to communicate as human beings.  We need to remind ourselves that civil discourse sometimes needs a booster shot but the vaccine is available at no charge.

Dearest NAFCM Members,

If you did not have the opportunity to watch/hear President Obama deliver a memorial speech in Tucson last night for the victims of the Tucson, AZ victims, consider “googling” the speech on the internet or catching it on YouTube.

Regardless of one’s political affiliation or feelings about President Obama, this is a beautiful speech that speaks directly to our work as conflict resolution professionals:

The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better in our private lives-to be better friends and neighbors, co-workers and parents. And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let’s remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy, but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud. It should be because we want to live up to the example of public servants like John Roll and Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other’s ideas without questioning each other’s love of country, and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American dream to future generations.” (emphasis mine)

I do not want to come off as “opportunistic” in the midst of this tragedy. However, I do see this as an opportunity as a field to work harder at spreading this message of civility in how we treat one another despite our differences. As a field, we hold deeply the belief that if parties to a conflict are supported in constructive ways (i.e., the use of conflict resolution processes, the use of third-party intervenors) that we can manage our most bitter conflicts, in ways that are peaceful and non-violent. We can agree to disagree while not seeking to decimate the character of the people we are in conflict with, or to even strike out and kill one another because we disagree with each other.

This message of managing conflicts and disagreements by peaceful means has been our field’s message. While we have always had a challenge of bringing forth this message to the public, we now face even greater challenges in bringing forth our message of constructive conflict resolution to the world because we, as a people, are constantly being exposed to so many  images of violence and destructive discourse between people. We especially see this almost daily on the news in the images of poisonous political discourse between politicians and pundits, between people of diverse political backgrounds on “both sides of the isle”.

These images of poisonous political discourse are everywhere and invade the public consciousness and promote the message that we can talk nasty to one another, make threats to harm or kill someone because of differing beliefs and values, and be disrespectful to one another failing to recognize that we all have the right to be treated with dignity and to not have our humanity stripped away from us because of our differences, or have our character assassinated because of what we believe.

“But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized—at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do—it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds”

This is the challenge we face as a field in delivering our message of the importance of civil discourse between one another, despite our differences. We face the challenge of the ever increasing tolerance for violence and character assassination when we disagree with one another on fundamental issues of values and beliefs.  Many of our  political leaders, at all levels of government,  fail to realize that they have powerful influence and can set the tone on how we interact with one another. Unfortunately, many times they have failed to do so reinforcing destructive ways of interacting with one another.

From Obama’s speech:

we can question each other’s ideas without questioning each other’s love of country, and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American generation to future generations.

I believe we can be better. Those who died here, those who saved lives here—they help me believe. We may not be able to stop evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us. I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.”

President Obama has issued a call to all Americans (and the world) to be better. His words encourage me to be reflective and always remember that “the way” is always to tap into my  inherent capacities for “decency and goodness”. We all have this inherent capacity for decency and goodness.

The Conflict Resolution field in general, and Community Mediation in particular, must answer this call. We must find ways to unite our message with President Obama’s message and strengthen our efforts to bring the message of the importance of conflict resolution skills and constructive and non-violent processes for managing our conflicts and differences in constructive, civil, and non-violent ways.

“We recognize our own morality, and are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame—but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others.”

May peace and love always be with each of you as you endeavor to do this important work of providing conflict resolution skills and processes to our fellow community members and to the peoples of the world.

Cherise D. Hairston

Dayton Mediation Center