On the weekend of July 11th and 12th, through the Detroit Area Restorative Justice Center, I had the opportunity to attend the training on how to Facilitate Restorative Conferences. Based on these couple of days, I would define Restorative Justice as a return to a time of community living, where the value and integrity of the individual was respected. Such respect extended to the point where people resolved their conflicts without involving the legal system and they worked to heal harms and to restore the dignity of the parties involved. In this training we learned the process and techniques integral to conducting conferences between affected parties and their support systems.
The training began in the same conventional manner that almost all trainings begin. You know of which I speak; the registration period, time for coffee and camaraderie, greetings from the trainer (in this case, Bill Sower), the traditional introductions from the participants and a warm-up exercise. To follow, was an overview of the primary purpose and objectives for the training. In keeping with protocol, we (the 40 or so of us) were off to a good start. Each of us was prepared to glean from the training the knowledge deemed pertinent to our specific needs and expectations. The first day of training involved the cognitive segment, emphasizing the core principles and strategies for properly conducting a Restorative Justice Conference. We all seemed to pass the mini- quizzes.
On the second day the emphasis was focused on direct interaction with the Conferencing process. From all appearances it seemed that the core objectives had been achieved. Bill did a great job!
It was the Wrap-up Exercise that for me proved to be the most meaningful. A significant number of my fellow participants expressed a similar sentiment. In the Wrap-up Bill posed a question that I will withhold in order to maintain the integrity of the training process. The frequency with which participants gave a common answer was what proved to be of such great value for me. Many of my fellow participants shared that they were most pleased by the ease in which they were able to internalize and own the concepts related to and the techniques involved in conducting the conferences. Like me, so many shared that they felt encouraged, inspired and somewhat re-invigorated by the positive, healing implications of the Restorative Justice process.
Personally I was pleasantly impressed at how effective the training was for so many who shared in it. There was a common feeling that we could take the knowledge we’d gained in the training and utilize and implement the conferences in order to more humanely resolve conflict in the various life and work spaces we came from. Based on the outcomes, I would gladly recommend the training to others.
written by Pamela L. Thomas MA-ED
From the Detroit Area Restorative Justice Center: Thank you Bill Sower, Repair the World, Guerrilla Food, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, and all of you who attended the training! Keep in touch, and we hope to see you soon!