Register: Meeting Registration - Zoom. View the flyer
Restorative vs Retributive JusticeFor restorative and transformative justice to make a difference in our lives, there needs to be a mind shift away from retributive justice. As we were all born into a domination and oppression system, we were also born into a retributive system of justice. Because we live with this system, it's hard to see it until we try something different. Even then, it's easy to get caught back up into retribution and recreate the status quo. For restorative justice to work, we need to be committed and gentle with each other.
Authoritarianism is reinforced by the culture we live in--including our families and schools. I enjoy watching my adult children as parents who are kind and warm and loving with their children, yet cringe when I hear them respond with the same authoritarian strategies I taught them when they, as children, were in conflict.
I am not the only grandparent who wishes I knew then what I know now. I felt some satisfaction a couple of years ago when I heard "Go find grandma and have her do that 'thing'” and my grandchildren came and sat with me cross-legged in anticipation. I asked "Ella, what do you want Eli to hear?" After Ella spoke, I asked "Eli, what did you hear?" After Eli replied, I turned to Ella and asked "Ella, is there more?" When she was heard and sure that Eli had gotten her, I asked Eli the same questions. The next step in the process was to ask what ideas they have for solving the problem and asking each of them, 'will this work for you?' It's a simple process. Kids like it because they get heard. The embers of their anger go out and we can all go forward and enjoy our day—no bitterness, no regrets—and they are learning skills to solve their own problems without going to authorities to do it for them.Recently, I attended a training with Kay Pranis, known as the modern western culture grandmother of Circle Process, who said that "the skills we learn when we are in Circle are the skills that we take out there." We learn to listen and to reflect on what we have heard before we respond. We learn to be with difficult emotions, to both express them and hear them, and we get support. When someone hears and understands us, we can be accountable for our actions, feel genuine remorse, and choose responses aligned with our values. We learn that we can be honest and trust ourselves, and that there are others we can trust as well. As the circle equalizes power, we share responsibility for creating the quality of relationships we want to have in our lives and for what happens next.
When we learn to use the skills of restorative and transformative justice in our everyday lives, we have more joy and satisfaction in our relationships with each other. Many of us believe that when we do this, we begin to heal the wounds that living in a retributive society creates, compounds and makes worse. Learn more about restorative justice on our website.
Brenda is Chairperson of the SNECUCC Restorative Justice Task Team.