Category Archives: Programs

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


It’s Time For Our Nation To Be Smart on Crime Smart on Crime

Recommendations for the Administration and Congress provides the 112th Congress and the Obama administration with analysis of the problems plaguing our state and federal criminal justice systems and a series of recommendations to address these failures. The report examines the entire criminal justice system, from the creation of new criminal laws to ex-offenders’ reentry into communities after serving their sentences.  Recommendations range from helping to restore and empower victims to identifying ways to protect the rights of the accused. Due to the undeniable human costs and the overwhelming fiscal costs, Americans from diverse political perspectives–particularly professionals with experience in all aspects of the criminal justice system–recognize that the system fails too many, costs too much, and helps too few. Smart on Crime provides the most promising recommendations for resolving our nation’s criminal justice crisis.  You can read or download the full report here.

It is worth noting how many of the recommendations are restorative.

Annual Dinner for Restore

RESTORE will have its fall fund-raising dinner on Friday, November 5th at the Old Courthouse Museum, 200 W. 6th St. in Sioux Falls, SD. Featured speaker will be Judge Merton B. Tice, Jr. (Ret.), 7th Circuit, Rapid City. Tickets are $25 and are available by calling (605) 338-6020 or by emailing The event will begin with a social time at 6:00 p.m., with dinner served at 7:00., followed by remarks by Judge Tice. There will also be a quilt show and a door prize of a quilt made by Phyllis A. Schrag of Sioux Falls.  Select quilts will also be available for donations to Restore.

Judge Tice’s address, titled “Restorative Justice: Tough on Crime – The Pennington County Experience,” will recount his crusade to create the very successful Center of Restorative Justice in Rapid City, South Dakota. Since 1997, the Center for Restorative Justice has worked closely with the court system to provide an alternative to the traditional model of punitive justice.

Judge Tice, who retired earlier this year after 35 years as a circuit court judge, will recount his experiences with restorative justice, which focuses on the harm caused by crime, rather than just the legal violation of laws and rules.  “Restorative justice holds offenders to a much higher level of accountability,” says Judge Tice. “It also works to repair harm done to the victim.” The approach also promotes safer communities, says Tice, is cost effective, and reduces rates of reoffending.  Victim-offender mediation programs have been endorsed by the American Bar Association since 1994.

Introduction to Restorative Justice and Victim-Offender Mediation

The Restore organization will be offering victim-offender mediation training to the public on Friday, October 1st from 6-10 p.m. and concluding on Saturday, October 2nd from 8:30 to 4:30 p.m.  Training will be held at East Side Lutheran Church, 1300 E 10th Street in Sioux Falls.  The workshop will also include an introduction to restorative justice.  Restorative justice is an approach to harm and conflict which attempts to involve, to the greatest extent possible, those who have a stake in the offense and to collectively identify and address harms, needs, and to collectively identify and address harms, needs, and obligations, in order to heal and put things as right as possible.

Cost is only $95, payable in advance with registration.  Tuition covers the entire two-days of training, all course materials, supplies, and a light lunch on Saturday.  Those who are interested in serving as mediators in the programs offered by Restore are encouraged to also attend the Advanced Mediation Training currently scheduled for December.  Scholarships for both trainings are available.

Training will be facilitated by experienced mediators, and led by Dr. John Gehm, former Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of South Dakota and the Director of Restore. Gehm has been a researcher, mediator and trainer for over 20 years.

The training also draws on the transformative model of conflict resolution. Participants will leave the training with an understanding of “the language of conflict,” approaches to resolving conflict which recognize and empower the participants, and with skills and techniques that will enable them to apply their learning with groups, business, and relationships.  The training is open to the general public, including high school age youth and elders. No prior mediation experience is required, just an interest in learning more about peaceful solutions to conflict and opportunities to apply it.

Pre-registration is required. Registration forms can be downloaded here.  Call the Restore offices 605-338-6020 for more information.

Application for CEU credits for Social Work and Education has been made.

August Training

Changing lenses

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.”

Restorative Justice and Domestic Violence

Federal Probation LogoRestorative Practices e-Forum has a link to Federal Probation which recently published “Pono Kaulike: Restorative Justice and Solution-Focused Approaches to Domestic Violence in Hawaii”.

The Pono Kaulike program provided facilitated restorative justice processes combined with solution-focused brief therapy with subjects who plead guilty to crimes including assault, harassment, criminal property damage, criminal trespass, terroristic threatening and negligent homicide.

Program results were highly positive in terms of both participant satisfaction and recidivism. Recidivism rates were compared to those of a control group. The recidivism rate in the control group was nearly double that in the experimental group.