100 DOLLARS PER MONTH
100 PEOPLE SERVED
100 LIVES CHANGED
$100/month transforms a life, heals the person harmed, and strengthens an entire community. Your support Makes a Difference.
$1,200 underwrites one Restorative Community Conference (RCC)
$5,000 enables one youth participant to complete the entire RCC program
THIS IS THE STORY OF HOW ONE INCIDENT CHANGED
THE LIVES OF THREE PEOPLE AND A WHOLE COMMUNITY.
Restorative justice is an ancient practice based on a timeless truth that restitution has greater value than retribution. It shifts the focus from legal rules to real human needs, from punishment to responsibility. It addresses the personal impact of wrongdoing on the victim, the offender, their families, and their community. All parties work together to repair the harm, ensure accountability, and make a fresh start.
HERE'S HOW IT WORKS . . .
Hector was arrested for defacing his school with graffiti. He was 12, the youngest child of a resilient mother working multiple jobs and trying to hold her family together after Hector's father left. Hector was drifting: bored, confused, alone, sad. Why graffiti? Maybe to claim an identity. Maybe someone would notice.
At court, Hector's mother feared the worst. Instead, he was offered the best, an opportunity to take part in a Restorative Community Conference facilitated by the National Conflict Resolution Center. He would meet the people he harmed, be required to accept full responsibility for his actions, and be invited to develop a plan to make things right. Feeling frightened and ashamed, Hector expected a stern reception. He was greeted by a circle of adults, including a teacher from his school who was struggling to cope with student vandalism.
Jeff was so respected as a teacher that he was put in charge of discipline. It was a tough school, and discipline was a challenge. Jeff had heard about restorative practices but remained skeptical. Suspensions and punitive actions were frequent - believed to be necessary, even if ineffective, deterrents. Then Hector got caught.
In the restorative circle, Jeff and the other adults made it clear that Hector's behavior was unacceptable. His crime degraded the entire school and affected everyone on campus. Hector openly wept under the weight of it. He apologized and accepted responsibility.
Then the circle provided a unique opportunity for Hector to be heard. Maybe for the first time, adults really listened to Hector's story and learned something of the roots of his struggle. Even the adults wept. Hearts and lives were drawn together. Community was forming. And Jeff saw Hector in a new light, not as a problem but as a child needing to be heard.
Mathew understands the pressures that cause Hector and others to act out. A child of broken homes and broken lives, Mathew took to the streets at a young age and soon found himself involved in things much more serious than school graffiti. Now a community leader, Mathew's long road to recovery included numerous caring mentors, community members who recognized the good within and refused to give up on him.
Mathew joins an RCC whenever possible. He knows firsthand the life-changing value of authentic community presence and restorative support. In an RCC, the person harmed is honored by the process, genuinely heard by the offender and community, and often healed by the experience. The person responsible is held accountable in a transformative way and then positively redirected with community support. And neighbors are drawn together, strengthened by their common interests and empowered to effect positive change in their community.
For Mathew, each RCC renews and strengthens his own restoration.
HECTOR is now a 16-year-old sophomore with a solid academic record at Lincoln High School. Poised and articulate, he enjoys drawing, skateboarding and the discipline of studying to be a firefighter in Lincoln's Fire Pro Academy.
JEFF PONSFORD was so inspired by the experience of Hector's RCC that he immersed himself in the study of restorative justice. He is now Director of Restorative Practices at his school where restorative circles are led by students in every classroom. Restorative plans are now preferred to suspensions, and disciplinary problems have reduced dramatically. The school is a model for restorative practices in the county.
MATHEW GORDON has worked with the City Attorney's Office and the Citizens Review Board on Police Practices. Mathew is active in the Urban League and many other community-building and youth-mentoring organizations.