Category Archives: Research

Transformative mediation and restorative justice?

ASourcebook recent post by Hofstra’s Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation caught my attention.  They have recently published a tremendously useful source book entitled Transformative Mediation: A Sourcebook.  I would invite you to investigate the transformative model first put forward by Folger and Bush many years ago.   I believe that what it shares in common with restorative justice is the awareness of and respect for the integrity of the individuals who are in conflict not necessarily due to a problem needing to be solved but a context to be understood.  How often do we go right to the ‘fix it’ model without giving people a chance to tell their stories with respect, without interruption, and taken seriously.  As RJ continues to mature and transform I think it is worth our attention to think about how we move beyond victim-offender mediation and understand that, at root, we are about peacemaking and community.  What do you think?

What place does transformative mediation have in Court-connected programs?

“More than 1000 cases are referred to the Mediation Center of Dutchess County each year from courts and similar agencies. In one recent year, more than 600 cases were business disputes such as landlord/tenant and consumer/merchant issues referred from twelve local courts. More than 180 cases of child custody/ visitation/ support issues between parents or extended family were referred from Family Court; and Supreme Court has referred adult guardianship cases…. Transformative mediation is used in all of these cases. Negotiating the transition to transformative practice in courts came down to explaining what we would do that would meet the courts’ own goals.

“We explained ’empowerment’ as helping people become clear about their situation so that decisions could be made. ‘Recognition’ was explained as understanding the other person’s point of view. We talked about mediation as a ‘conversation’ between parties. ‘Changing interaction’ meant that decisions could be made and next steps could be taken because something had changed between the parties. These explanations were helpful to the courts because these goals were not inconsistent with their own. Transformative values are present — in the work that we do and in the relationships that have been fostered.”

I would urge us all to explore the possibilities of who we are, where we’ve come from and to consider the possibilities of approach crime, conflict and dispute resolution from an integrative framework.  

As always your comments are welcomed!

what are the possibilities of an integrative framework?


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.

A challenge


I’m listening this morning to the slew of financial statistics–housing starts, unemployment rate, bank closings, those without health care, bankruptcies, houses in foreclosure….

It seems to me that restorative justice needs to come up with an index of its own:  one that marks the measure of social justice.  Are we moving closer or further away from our goal of less reliance on prisons, improving social relationships in our communities, looking at how well or how poorly alternatives to incarceration are funded?  What is the ratio between expenditures on prisons vs. what we spend on schools?  What is the ratio of crime to poverty?  Number of dispute resolution programs to police officers?

If we were able to construct such an index, what measures would we want to include?  What ratios would make sense?  Could we measure it over time?  Might we use it to show our policy makers where we might redirect our capital–from economic to social?  There is the well-known Misery Index that has been around for a long while.  Perhaps it’s time to develop a Justice Index.  Then again, the two might be related.

What variables should we include?  Some initial thoughts:  ratio of prison spending to education… percentage of gated communities compared to low-income housing … incarceration rates v. those without healthcare … social distance … social capital …  As a sociologist, this makes me think.  Things are not static. This gives me hope.  We need something by which to measure our progress. Whereas people may not understand abstractions or theories, they do understand numbers.  With 14,000 people a day losing health care coverage, just under 500 folks are now on their own in the time it took to write these words.  But then again, who’s keeping score…?

Training news

imageBecause of the interest in the training workshop series:  Introduction to Victim-Offender Mediation & Restorative Justice, this program will be again be offered by Restore on a quarterly basis to individuals, groups, organizations as well as to the public.  No prior mediation experience is required.  If your organization or workplace wishes to discuss the possibility of specialized or customized training, please contact John Gehm, at Restore.

Designed in two parts, training takes place on Fridays from 6-10 p.m. and concludes on Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Training will normally be held at East Side Lutheran Church, 1300 E. 10th Street in Sioux Falls.  The cost is $50 which covers all course materials, supplies, and a light lunch on Saturday.  Training scholarships are available. For those who are interested in becoming mediators for the program, an advanced mediation training seminar is required, at no additional cost.

Pre-registration is required. Visit the website for registration forms and further details and to be placed on the mailing list for additional information.  Or call the Restore offices at 605-338-6020.  E-mail at


October 30th and 31st


January 22nd 23rd

April 30th and May 1st

August 19th and 20th

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.