Can Restorative Justice Break the School-to- Prison Pipeline?

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Jesus Ibn El was teased incessantly as a youngster. He now works at Berkley's Resolution Center. Photo by Spencer Whitney/SF Chronicle

A California program aimed at keeping young people on track before they become hopelessly mired in the criminal justice system could be a cornerstone for a state already making long-overdue efforts to reduce its prison population.
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3 thoughts on “Can Restorative Justice Break the School-to- Prison Pipeline?

  1. Great article – only thing I would caution so that the goal of doing RJ with fidelity is held is to consider this statement, “They are forced to meet with their victims in sessions known as “the circle” as part of the process of taking responsibility for their actions and repairing the harm they caused.” No one is forced in a restorative practice, they are asked, encouraged, strongly encouraged with information about the consequences, they are taught, they are given space and a listening ear so they can understand their own actions and wrongdoing and how they hurt someone else. They are given time to make amends to themselves about their choice to harm. No one is forced in a restorative practice.
    Voluntariness is a very important principle in this process. If they choose not to participate they will have to then go through the conventional process in place. If we really had the time for our youth, we will try and try again to help them to understand how to correct what they did wrong.
    It is of course confusing for our youth given that our world does not operate using the values that round Restorative Justice.

    • Wonderful to see articles of this nature, but I would have too agree with Rita, as a long term practitioner of Restorative Practice, it is less about ‘force’, and more about the conversation and relationship (trust) you are able to built with perpetrators – and indeed allowing them to achieve a shared understanding of the impact of their behaviour on others. So-called ‘circles’ or restorative conferences are certainly a tough environment, simply because offenders are encouraged within an environment of respect and support, to own there behaviour – but they are certainly not forced. The difficulty for most offenders is that they often come from forceful or retributive experiences where negative emotions have been maximised. The restorative model, or Restorative Practice is essentially about maximising opportunities for positive emotions, which in turn allows a process of reparation and reintegration to begin. Sadly – this is something that is foreign to the criminal justice system.

  2. Thank you Ms. Alfred for pointing out the mistakes in this article that are so often made by people when they speak of RJ. As a oractitioner, I spend a lot of time defending and correcting my people about what restorative justice practices really is. I’m glad you were able to write the author almost immediately.

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