Restorative Justice Project
“They say it takes a village to raise a child; in that same vein, when trying to right wrongs, it takes a village to restore justice.” (Incarcerated man, 26 years old, MCI Concord)
The Restorative Justice Project at UMass Boston provides conflict resolution, mediation and restorative justice services to Boston’s youth and families and to incarcerated populations.
RJUMP is the Restorative Justice Juvenile Mediation Project which provides Boston youth and families with restorative justice services that seek to provide a forum for victims to speak with offenders about how crime has affected their lives and give them the opportunity to ask offenders to make amends.
Restorative justice practices encourage offenders to identify the underlying needs in their own lives that become the root causes for criminal behavior, take responsibility for the harm they cause, encourage empathy through humanizing victims, and desist from further criminal behavior. More.
This project works in Massachusetts prisons to help adult offenders address the deeper issues in their past that may have led to criminality and violence, and which in turn may influence their decision to re-offend in the future. Restorative practices provide the possibility of healing and rehabilitation through profound narrative group work that encourages introspection and self-exploration. The restorative justice prison curriculum is a journey from self-exploration and the identification of root causes of criminal behavior, to taking responsibility for harm, feeling compassion for victims and families, making amends where possible and finding ways to repair harm by living restoratively. More.
More About RJUMP and Juvenile Diversion
The Restorative Justice Juvenile Mediation Project (RJUMP), has teamed up with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office to bring about the Juvenile Alternative Resolution Program (JAR) that is the first of its kind in Suffolk County. In collaboration with community youth service organizations and victim/survivor community groups, RJUMP is working with partners to provide juvenile offenders with restorative justice services and mediation that attempt to change offending behavior by bringing young people and victims together in dialogue processes while addressing the underlying needs of offending behavior. At the discretion of the SCDAO, once a juvenile completes their diversion plan, they are considered “diverted” an are not charged with the crime, avoid the stigma of a criminal record.
Restorative practices can change a young person’s behavior by addressing the underlying needs that lead them to commit crimes. When young people begin to engage in crime, it is often a reflection of something deeper, trauma, fear, childhood wounds, and lack of opportunity. Our youth gangs are really a reflection of a profound need to belong to something. Restorative justice engages high risk youth in trauma informed dialogues that help them become conscious of the roots of their own pain and encourages them to become change agents for themselves.
Restorative justice brings victims’ voices back into the criminal justice arena by focusing on the harm that is caused by crime. The dialogues provide the forum for a person who has been harmed to face the responsible party and tell them how the crime has affected their lives and ask that the offender take responsibility for that harm. It’s the old fashioned community-based justice, if you rob the shop owner, you work for them for free until you pay them back. If you hurt someone, you face them and apologize.
- Victim/Offender Dialogues or Circles involve the victim, the offender, the offender’s family, friends, and support group and any support group identified by the victim/s. The purpose of the dialogue is to give victims a forum to express how the crime affected their lives and to request that the offender attempt to make amends. The victim and offender together come up with the “reparation agreement,” which includes a set of reparations that directly correlate with the offense. Restorative practices also attempt to surface deeper issues in the offender’s family and in the young person’s life that may lead to “deviant” behaviors that underlie juvenile criminal behavior. Some circles, when the direct victim is either unavailable or does not wish to participate, may include surrogate victims of similar crimes to those committed by the juvenile.
- Reparation Agreement -During the conference the offender, the victims, community members, support groups and family members decide upon a set of reparations the offender must complete in an attempt to repair the harm they caused. Reparation agreements can be as varied as the individuals in the room. They can include but are not limited to financial compensation, property clean-up for vandalism, community service, public and private apologies, letters to family members, volunteer work, completion of service plans such as drug rehabilitation programs, anger management courses and educational courses. Successful agreements will note the offender’s taking responsibility and feeling accountable for the harm they have caused as well as feeling empathy and compassion for the victims and true remorse for the harm they caused.
- Restorative Family Conference is a facilitated conversation with the offender and his/her extended family and support group. Members of the support group and family commit to providing long-term support for the child, including developing a plan that will facilitate rehabilitation. Families agree to actively take part in assisting the young person to access services and continue to make good choices. Everyone in the dialogue will have the opportunity to speak to and about the young person. Family Conferencing is most useful in delinquency cases where the offender’s crimes are the clear result of a history of family pain, violence, abuse and neglect, substance abuse, lack of housing, and/or foster care involvement. In some instances, Family Conferences may also involve professionals from the child welfare agencies, service providers and court officials. Professionals and providers can be useful in assisting to determine access to appropriate services and questions of custody. Family Conferences do not usually involve a “victim” unless the victim is another family member.
- Parent/Child Mediation involves the child and his/her parent/s or guardians. Mediation addresses underlying conflicts in the home and assists the family to untangle complicated conflicts, air unspoken concerns and hurts, and develop plans that can potentially harmonize family patterns, rules, power imbalances and day to day living arrangements.
- Restorative Youth Dialogues are facilitated discussions with youth groups composed of juveniles categorized as having a high risk of re-offending. The dialogue series involves deep narrative group work intended to unearth difficult issues that may underlie criminal behavior, help young people identify the roots of his/her violent or criminal behavior, and encourage a sense of compassion for the self and others and remorse for the hurt they have caused. The dialogues also focus on developing strengths and create youth centered solutions to conflict.
- Youth Mentorship In some more serious cases where a youth requires a higher level of supervision, a facilitator or circle keeper form the community will act as a mentor for a youth over a longer period of time. Mentors will visit the youth at least once a week as well as be available by phone. Mentors assist the young person to develop a plan that meets his/her individual life goals, including locating services, educational and employment opportunities. Mentors will be expected to build trust with the youth and their family.
The Repairing Harm Prison Project
The Restorative Justice Project, in collaboration with Concord Prison Outreach, works with incarcerated men at MCI Concord and the Northeastern Correctional Center.
- The Victim Impact course at the Concord medium facility is a twelve-session dialogue-based workshop founded on the principals and practices of restorative justice, including a variety of exercises, story-telling, reading, and group work intended to help offenders become aware of the deeper issues in their past that may have led to criminality and violence and which in turn may influence their decision to re-offend in the future. Participants begin with identifying the trauma in their own lives that may have led to criminal behavior and then move toward taking responsibility for the harm they committed. The course culminates in a surrogate victim/offender dialogue where volunteers from the victim/survivor community come to speak with the men, share their stories, and offer their humanity. These dialogues are really the heart of the curriculum and where real healing can occur.
- The Restorative Justice course at the minimum facility is a twenty-four week course broken into two twelve week phases. Phase one focuses on “looking inward,” encouraging participants to find the roots of their own pain and the possibilities for healing in themselves through the telling of their own stories. The second phase of the course centers around “accountability circles,” where participants take responsibility for the harm they caused and speak about and remember their direct victims. Although making amends to victims is rarely possible in a prison context, participants are encouraged to “bring victims forward” by making something of their own lives, repairing harm in their own families and communities. Because many of the participants in the minimum will be returning home within the next few years, the course also focuses on identifying possible issues that may hinder successful re-entry by brainstorming possible conflict resolution strategies. Both phase one and phase two also culminate in the surrogate victim/offender dialogues. One man recently said after a dialogue, “The dialogue shook me to the core. Before this, I never put a face to my victims.”
For more information on this initiative check out the Repairing Harm Pilot Project Report
RJUMP Director and CPDD center fellow Daria Lyman shares a story of a restorative circle:
His voice shook slightly as he addressed the presiding judge at the Boston Juvenile Court; “Your honor, I hope that the case against Chris will be dismissed. We worked it out in mediation and I think the best thing would be for him to go home.” The judge, probation officers and other court staff looked at him with quizzical expressions. What was happening? Who was this kid? Thirteen-year-old Arthur was the first victim ever to address the juvenile court in Suffolk County, the victim in an Assault and Battery case where he had his nose broken by another young man he did not know.
Since the incident, Arthur had been wondering, “Why me? I didn’t even know this kid.” When I told him that the offender, a sixteen-year-old African American, had told me he punched Arthur in the face because he had called him “the N word,” Arthur was hurt and exasperated. “I would never say that. I’m not even White!” Arthur said that he wanted to talk with the offender and his family and tell them he was not a racist. And he wanted to understand what had motivated Chris to hit him the face.
When we all sat down together in a conference room at the Department of Youth Services, Arthur and his mother, Chris and his father and two restorative justice circle keepers, race was the dominant issue. Chris’s father was in tears when he told the participants that his family had never been racist; Arthur pleaded for everyone to believe that he would never have used a word that he despised. He told us that everyone thought he was white and he was treated differently because of it, how he had such a hard time finding a group to identify with as a light skinned blue-eyed Brazilian in a Spanish speaking and African American neighborhood. He told us that he doesn’t’ believe in race, that he doesn’t understand where the anger comes from. Chris apologized for the incident and for misunderstanding Arthur.
The restorative justice circle helped the victim to understand the violent incident that had occurred and helped the offender truly feel remorseful for his actions. Chris’s case was dismissed and he is back home with his parents. Arthur is an RJUMP intern and assists in facilitating group dialogues and restorative justice circles.
For more information please contact email@example.com or 617-875-0266
Juvenile Alternative Resolution Program
This program aims to end criminal careers before they start. Boston Globe Article
UMass Boston, Suffolk DA Partner on Restorative Justice Program for Juvenile Offenders
For More Info Contact Daria Lyman
firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 617-875-0266