In reflecting upon the class RP 500, Basic Restorative Practices, I have been exposed to a new level of understanding of the essential theories that were presented in various papers. Over the course of this class I was able to explore various corner stone concepts as well as being presented with a new approach to my thinking, which was provided by my peers. In this reflection paper I will attempt to provide evidence of what concepts I have absorbed as well as the overall effect of the experience.
In the first assignment that we were presented with, the challenge that was to gain an understanding of two articles. The first was Conflicts As Property (Christie 1977). This article presented us with a view, focused on a mismanaged judicial system that had potential for change. As I explored this work | was able to identify with various components as defined by Christie. I looked at this work from an internal vantage point with a focal area on “what could be” rather the traditional approach which is accepting what is.
In the article Conflicts as Property (Christie 1977), states “My suspicion is that criminology to some extent has amplified a process where conflicts have been taken away from the parties directly involved and thereby have either disappeared or become other peoples property. ” (p. 1). This specific sentence is what primed my thought process and helped me explore my experience. I immediately recalled my work history in the juvenile justice field; I was able to identify how Christie’s statement connected with me.
I re-examined how in the juvenile courts, the individual was left without a voice and how the courts took ownership of the harm that was caused. I noted that the system itself was mentally absent and that the overall process was more mechanical than natural, and homeostasis was unachievable. Beyond the harm that was already inflicted on the parties involved, the system itself was compounding this very thing. When connecting with various theoretical components of restorative practices I tend to believe that the idea of shame ties in very well.
As we know shame can dictate how we respond when confronted with an incident of crisis. In the article Conflicts as Property (Christie, 1977), stated, “It is the conflict itself that represents the most interesting property taken away, not the goods originally taken away for the victim, or given back to him. In our types of society, conflicts are more scarce than property. And they are immensely more valuable. ” (p. 7). Considering these ideas I then focused on repairing the harm caused by the system by utilizing the article on “Fair Practice” (Kim & Mauborgne, 1977).
They formulated that if we make decisions without including those who are affected by the decision you will experience failure, where as when individuals are included and educated on the topic you develop trust and community. Connecting this idea with that of Christie you begin to formulate a way to provide ownership of the conflict to the parities involved. After posting my original response to the class I was met with fantastic feedback that allowed me to expand my thought process.
I realized that, under these circumstances, I need to discuss the connection in which we begin to repair the harm caused by the shame. Fair practice allows us to have a voice, owning the conflict provides a mechanism of understanding. As a result of these ideas, it is imperative to determine how society functions within these concepts. In the article “Restorative Justice in Everyday Life” (Wachtel & McCold, 2000) present us with the criteria in which we as a society can move forward lessoning the impact of harm.
The introduction to the social discipline window helps convey the message of how our society has learned to function. Initially, when I was studying this material it brought me back to one of my experiences when I was the Director of Training for a Juvenile Justice Agency. I took the no mercy approach. In short it failed, I failed, and I failed those who depended upon me to lead. According to the social discipline window I was a “To”. Similarly like the justice system, what I needed to learn was how to work in the “With” box, again like our justice system.
Interestingly, I was approached by one of my peers in class and she challenged my notion of focusing on ones self to determine what “box “we are in. Connecting this back to the idea of shame helps us understands how we impose our expectations of ourselves on others, and by doing so it can perpetuate shame. (Masters, 1997) Explains “stigmatization that threatens social bonds is liable to encourage someone to seek out membership of a potentially deviant group and also liable to foster desires for revenge. ” (pp. 9-30).
This connection helped me to understand the integration of shame and the points that I am attempting to make. To come full circle in understanding the basic concepts of restorative practices there also needs to be a framework that enables the individuals and families to be restored. I first focused my reflection on the overall ownership of shame and voice, however to enable the reduction of shame and amplification of voice, you need a platform to encourage this. This is where FGDM comes into play.
The idea of having a controlled process in which the government has oversight and power is given back to the family and/or the individual. The processes in which direction and compassion is both utilized can directly reduce the shame that not only the individual is suffering from but also the family. And by reducing the shame component you may also perpetuate a positive change for the future of the family rather than continuously live in the shadows of society as we currently accept. Despite FGDM being a platform to perpetuate restoration it is not the end all.
We need to have the family be willing to partake in the FGDM. If there is not full cooperation then there is potential that the model will fail. Each stakeholder holds a certain piece of the puzzle. And to complete the picture we need all of the correct pieces in the correct locations. When I was studying this portion of the course I tried to learn the concepts through the eyes of a participant rather than a practitioner, I did this with the intent of analyzing the process and understanding the flow.
In the journal entry Widening the Circle: Family Group Decision Making (Pennell & Buford, 1994) they stated “the key assumption here is that most family members have something important to contribute to decision making and that “having a say” in decisions which affects ones life is directly related to outcomes” (p. 5). This statement summarizes my understanding, the outcomes are related to the family functioning together not as individuals. All things considered at the present time my understanding of the foundational concepts of restorative practices has exceeded my own expectations.
I believe that I have developed a core understanding of how restorative practices needs to become entrenched in the very systems that we rely upon to maintain civility. As well as how we need to become a society who can embrace the foundational ideas of community and the importance of family unity. Without doing so we are only allowing our futures to be dictated by our past mistakes and failure as a species becomes the only possible conclusion.