Restorative Justice & Circle

Restorative Practices Basics

Restorative practices are victim centered ways to resolve conflicts or address from a trauma or crisis. The purpose is not to restore back to what was but to transform the conditions in which it was done. Restorative practices take into account the perceptions and ideas of all harmed and affected in order to address the harm done  and to hold the person who did the harm accountable.  The focus is on the impact of the behavior, or harm, and also on solutions or possibilities for moving forward in a positive direction for those harmed, who did the harm and for the community.

I first became interested in studying and practicing restorative justice and circle in the mid 1990's. I was interested in it as a missing piece of prevention and for more effective, earlier interventions that could be used in schools, workplaces and communities. My experience with staff development and interventions pointed to how often serious tension and stress was not caused by the work itself, but by political/systemic and/or interpersonal issues that were not addressed or were not resolved.  In the workplace there can be conflicts, tensions and harms done that make it difficult to have respectful, safe and professional working relationships and can also seriously damage a positive and efficient working environment.  Unfortunately, problems are often left to simmer until litigation is threatened, lawyers are called in or valuable professionals leave.

Restorative interventions focus on relationships. Conflicts often arise because people do not feel valued, listened to, treated fairly or equitably, or they feel bullied or harassed.  In the workplace people do not need to be friends or like one another, but do need to recognize how we are all connected, the impact of our behavior on others. Everyone needs to understand they can be part of the problems or be part of the solutions.  While therapy may not always be appropriate for people in the workplace, enhancing communications, staff development, conflict resolution and problem solving certainly is.

Circles are often used as part of  restorative or transformative justice efforts. Circles are nothing new, and indeed are based on customs and values true to indigenous people around the world. When problems occurred, or major decisions needed to be made, the leaders sat in circle to honor and involve everyone’s voice and to recognize the impact on the entire community.   Circle is a process to allow for fair, inclusive and respectful dialogue.  Circle allows everyone to literally see and listen to each other. Circle also represents the reality we are all connected and behaviors/actions have a ripple effect on individuals and on the organization or community.

 A key concept of restorative practices is for the leaders and decision makers to do “with”, not to do “for”, or “to.”

Business consultant Peter Block  challenged participants at a training to consider, “How do I bring myself into the Institution?  What is the methodology of transformation?  How do we move from a paternalistic structure to one that is fully human?” He also spoke of the Circle as a symbol of community, citizenship and the need to create healthier communities in the institutions. Block said that to do this we need to discuss the “undiscussables” in a respectful, pro-active way.

Possible Steps in Preparation for Circle:

1)      Information and preparatory session with key organizational members and/or potential participants.

2)      Identify key potential participants (Who is involved? Who has been affected?)

3)      Potential participants agree to be involved in the circle.

4)      In preparation participants consider: 

a.       What is their perception of the problem/issues?

b.      How have they been affected (directly, indirectly)?

c.       What is the organization doing well? What could the organization do better?

d.      What do they bring to the table? How have they helped/hurt the process?

e.       What are their ideas for positive actions/possibilities?

Contact: Cordelia Anderson
Sensibilities Prevention Services
3118 West Lake Street # 431
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55416

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software