Criminal Justice System, Prison, Rehabilitation, Restorative Justice, Uncategorized, Youth

How Restorative Justice Changed This Colorado Cop's Views on Prison

Officer Ruprecht continued to feel skeptical about this process, but something was definitely changing. He saw how much money had already been saved by choosing to go down this route instead of jailing the boys and sending them into a lengthy and expensive judicial process. He realized that restorative justice had more teeth than conventional punishment because it imposes real, face-to-face accountability among offenders for their actions, and makes them listen directly to the victims of their crimes. He realized that six young lives might be saved from years of cycling in and out of the prison system. He learned that the human brain doesn't develop fully until the age of 22 or thereabouts, so punishment and fear-inciting prison regimes have an even bigger impact on the development of young people. He remembered his own children and recognized that more than anything else, they and others deserve the chance to make mistakes and pick themselves back up again, sure in the knowledge of their own inherent worth and value.

Click here to read more about how the power and efficacy of restorative justice diversion programs for youth have impacted law enforcement officials in Colorado!

Empowerment, Restorative Justice, Schools, Uncategorized, Violence Intervention, Youth

Long Beach, CA Students use Theater to Promote RJ

Last week, as students rallied in front of the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) the school board passed a resolution to encourage teachers and administrators to use alternative discipline policies in schools. The week before, students and community members came together to demonstrate what that could look like on a daily basis. Facilitated by the community theatre group, the Cornerstone Theatre, Long Beach youth presented “Tangle”– a play that revolved around problem-solving and conflict resolution using Restorative Justice (RJ).

Read the full story, here

Domestic Violence, DV Statistics, Empowerment, Intimate Partner Violence, Research, Uncategorized, Violence Intervention, Women

IPV and the Military

Pacific Standard contributor Lauren Kirchner recently reviewed a 2013 Journal of Family Violence study examining Veterans Health Administration (VHA) perspectives on screening patients for intimate partner violence (IPV). The study reveals that female veterans experience IPV at rates much higher than the general public. The study also highlights that while women comprise a growing number of active duty personnel and veterans, their unique health care needs often go unaddressed. VHA doctors lamented the lack the training they receive when it comes to identifying and intervening in cases of IPV. One doctor interviewed for the study had the following to say about screening for domestic violence among female veterans: “It’s just really not on my radar. It is so overshadowed by other mental health issues and substance abuse issues that, relative to those topics, IPV isn’t really up there.”

This failure to recognize the role that IPV plays in exacerbating such issues speaks to the need for increased training among VHA practitioners around identifying IPV in patients. For IPV survivors and advocates, it comes as no surprise that women experiencing abuse would present with a myriad of mental health concerns and substance abuse issues—particularly if this abuse is compounded by combat related trauma.

While millions gather today to pay tribute to the men and women who have served in the nation’s military, let us also acknowledge the problem of IPV for female veterans and their families. Improving the healthcare that America’s veterans receive is no doubt the best way to honor their service.


Criminal Justice System, Prison, Rehabilitation, Restorative Justice, Uncategorized

Crime victims find healing through restorative justice

Following the murder of her husband--a San Leandro, CA police officer--Dione Wilson struggled for years to move past her crippling grief. In an interview with San Francisco's KALW Public Radio station, Wilson describes her hope that a guilty verdict would bring her the peace she needed to move on with her life. "I had this little light at the end of the tunnel. I kept thinking, it’s almost over, he’s gonna get convicted. He’s gonna be on death row. I’m gonna feel better. I’m gonna feel better. And then when it happened, and he did get put on death row, I waited, and I waited, and I waited. And I thought, Huh, well, it really didn’t work. I don’t feel better, I feel worse"

After exhausting all resources available in the criminal justice system, Wilson turned to the Insight Prison Project--a restorative justice (RJ) based organization which helps facilitate victim-offender dialogue meetings. Meetings such as these bring together offenders with those who have been harmed as a result of their crime to have a discussion around accountability, harm, and repair. Sonya Shah, the advocacy director of Insight Prison Project had the following to say about why crime victims often do not find healing through the traditional processes of the criminal justice system:

In that process, what’s missing is nobody actually asks me as a person who’s committed a crime what I’ve done. And nobody actually gives me an opportunity to take accountability. And on the side of a survivor, the victim of the crime, nobody asks that victim what they need. What the impact of the harm was. And what does the victim think the obligation is on the side of the person who’s committed the harm. Victims are just used often to convict

In contrast, Shah continues, "Restorative justice invites a very different process of repairing harm. It takes into account crime survivor’s needs, community safety, public safety, accountability, and really actually getting to the root causes of harm."

To hear about about Dione Wilson's inspiring story, click here to listen her interview on KALW.

For additional information on the exciting work underway at Insight Prison Project, visit their website by clicking here.

Domestic Violence, DV Statistics, Intimate Partner Violence, Uncategorized

NO MORE: Challenging the Current DV Paradigm

This month, the NO MORE PSA Campaign launched a series of print, broadcast, online, and outdoor advertisements, the goal of which is to raise awareness around issues of domestic violence and sexual assault. The 3-year long campaign was developed in response to a study conducted earlier this year which revealed what many advocates and survivors have long known--namely, that domestic violence and sexual assault continue to be widespread and that there exists a shockingly high degree of silence and inaction around both issues. A call to action

Given these findings, the NO MORE campaign has chosen not to direct their message to individual victims or offenders. Instead, the campaign calls on friends and family members to take action to intervene in potentially violent situations to prevent survivors from experiencing further victimization. The message of NO MORE is also directed at society as a whole; challenging widespread beliefs about accountability and victimization.

In the print and television ads, celebrities such as Mariska Hargitay call for an end to the excuses commonly used to justify inaction. Rationalizations such as "She was really drunk", "He's such a nice guy though", or "Why doesn't she just leave" are among the many which are exposed. Below are two of the many online videos produced by NO MORE.

The brilliance of the this campaign lies in its message of broad accountability, calling on friends, family members, and even coworkers to do their part to end or prevent sexual assault and domestic violence. Such a message refocuses the accusatory attention often directed at survivors of victimization--attention which sadly blames the survivor for being abused or sexually assaulted. The inclusion of men in the delivery of the NO MORE campaign's message is also a step in the right direction. Too often women are instructed on how to best protect themselves against a potential assault. We are told to not go out alone at night, to carry pepper spray with us at all times, and to be careful of how much alcohol we drink at a party. Those who are intent on harming women are unfortunately not included in conversations about ending sexual assault and domestic violence, thus absolving them of any responsibility for their wrongdoing and further stigmatizing victims. Furthermore, as can be seen in one of the videos above, NO MORE includes statistics on male victims of intimate violence and sexual assault, challenging the notion that men are always perpetrators of violence and never the victims.

Unfortunately however, the NO MORE ads fail to address the issue of domestic violence within same-sex relationships. In addition to male victimization, intimate violence between LGBTQ couples is under addressed in the anti-violence movement. The inclusion of statistics as they relate to rates of victimization in the LGBTQ community would have served to further strengthen the message of this campaign.

Redefining the victim

As was mentioned above, it is widely believed that men are always perpetrators of violence while women are always victims. Not only are these beliefs inaccurate as they relate to the reality of male victimization, they assume that violence only takes place within heterosexual relationships. Advocating for a more inclusive definition of victim is not intended to undermine the gendered nature of domestic violence and sexual assault. Indeed, statistics on domestic violence and sexual assault reveal the centrality of gender in the dynamics of both forms of victimization. Our hope here at CVR is that anti-violence activists and advocates will continue to examine and expose the misconceptions that have long harmed survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Only after redefining victimization to reflect the totality of experiences with domestic violence and sexual assault can treatment and intervention offer individuals a viable option to end the violence that plagues the lives of survivors, their families, and their communities as well.

For more information on male victimization, click here to visit the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence's website.

More information on domestic violence within the LGBTQ community can be found here.

Criminal Justice System, Domestic Violence, Intimate Partner Violence, Restorative Justice, Violence Intervention

RJ is on the rise: What this means for domestic violence intervention

“Restorative Justice is on the rise exponentially in the United States” asserts New York Times contributor Molly Rowan Leach. In her coverage of The National Conference on Restorative Justice, Leach writes:

As millions continue to experience and witness a collective 'justice' that is tainted by racial discrimination, by billions in profit, by the warehousing of our meek, a school-to-prison pipeline and by the practices of expecting punishment and isolation for all involved when crime occurs to actually function as rehabilitative, there is a form in the air, in the political, in the grassroots, in the hearts of the people, that offers a viable life-ring out of this deluge.

Leach's reporting on the fundamental principles of RJ and on the positive outcomes observed thus far in youth diversion programs, offers important insight into the use of RJ for other types of crimes, including domestic violence (DV).

The controversy over using RJ in DV cases is highlighted in tragic murder of Ann Grosmarie.

Following Ann’s death, her parents chose to use RJ conferencing during the sentencing phase of their daughter’s trial. Many reacted to the parent’s decision to forgive their daughter’s killer with confusion; some with anger and disgust. Writing on the case and subsequent criminal trial, Jill Filipovic of The Guardian had this to say about RJ and DV:

Restorative justice should be applied more widely and supported more broadly; and in a more evolved society, I'd love to see it applied to domestic violence. But we don't live in that society quite yet. And constructing intimate violence as something not only forgivable, but as something that should be forgiven isn't radical; it's a common belief.

Firstly, I disagree that domestic violence is widely viewed as forgivable in our society. Due in large part to the efforts of anti-violence activists, DV is no longer widely viewed as a personal problem. For example, every state in the U.S now recognizes DV as a crime in their penal codes. Many states—including New York—have mandatory arrest policies and victimless prosecution. Policies such as these have forced law enforcement officials to make an arrest when responding to a DV call and have enabled the courts to prosecute DV offenders even when the victim refuses to cooperate. In addition to specialized DV courts, domestic violence units within police departments are also common. What this suggests is that society’s views about the acceptability of DV have in fact changed. DV is not viewed as a personal matter which can be resolved through forgiveness—it is a crime against the state, punishable by jail time or mandated mental health treatment.

Secondly, restorative justice is not solely about forgiveness. It is about healing, and this process may or may not include forgiveness on the part of the victim(s). The assumption that a victim would be expected or forced to forgive their abuser is far from the truth when it comes to RJ. As Leach points out in her piece, RJ is fundamentally about accountability on the part of the offender and healing on the part of the victim. For Ann’s parents, forgiveness was in fact central to their ability to heal after their daughter’s murder. This decision though is ultimately up to those who have been harmed. Suggesting that a victim should not forgive their abuser is as contrary to feminist ideals as suggesting that they should.

Lastly, we do live in an imperfect society where violence is rampant and acceptance of DV still exists to a degree. But, survivors of DV and those who work in the field should not wait until sexism, racism, and classism no longer inform our understanding of and our responses to violence before taking action. With traditional methods of DV intervention showing mixed results with regards to recidivism (Feder & Wilson, 2005 and Babcock, Green & Robbie, 2004), it is crucial that advocates and professionals within the field of DV continue to develop new methods for combating incidents of violence. Restorative justice, while controversial to some, offers victims and their families the opportunity to heal and to end the violence which has devastated the lives of so many individuals, it empowers victims to make healthy decisions about the future of their relationships, and it holds DV offenders accountable for their actions while providing them the opportunity to change destructive patterns of behavior.

Empowerment, Restorative Justice, Schools, Uncategorized, Violence Intervention, Youth

Restorative justice message unites students

RJ Student activist Kylar Hughes, pictured above, is a member of ReThink, a citywide, schools-based restorative justice club.

"The restorative-justice approach is designed to foster communication and conflict-resolution skills among students, aiming to defang feuds and beefs before they escalate. Students gather in a circle to air grievances with an eye toward resolving them."

Read more about ReThink and the movement to promote restorative justice in schools here

Criminal Justice System, Domestic Violence, Intimate Partner Violence, Uncategorized

Police Take on Family Violence to Avert Deaths

With domestic violence murders on the rise in New York City in 2011, NYPD's domestic violence unit has begun to make precautionary visits to households with a history of domestic violence incidents.

As part of their work, the officers assigned to the domestic violence unit make a total of 70,000 precautionary visits a year to the households with past episodes. Each precinct station house also maintains a “high propensity” list of a dozen or so households that get special attention because they are believed to be most at risk of further violence.

Read the full article here

Domestic Violence, DV Statistics, Intimate Partner Violence, Research, Uncategorized

New York DV stats show uptick in 2012

The Division of Criminal Justice Services reported 54,848 domestic violence victims outside New York City in 2012, up more than 1,700, or 3 percent, from the year before. The New York Police Department, using data that excludes some lower level crimes, said there were 30,428 domestic violence victims last year, an increase of about 1,500. State criminal justice officials said Wednesday that the increase in police reports about domestic assaults, sex offenses and violations of protection orders may reflect an ongoing push for victims to contact authorities.

Recently released data on incidents of domestic violence throughout New York reveal an increase in rates for the year 2012. Read the full article here for a summary of 2012's findings

Domestic Violence, Intimate Partner Violence, Uncategorized

Domestic violence and the “abusive monster”/“weak woman” labels

Throughout our efforts to develop safe and effective domestic violence treatment options, the Center on Violence and Recovery has remained critical of stereotypical conceptualizations related to incidents, perpetrators, and victims of domestic abuse. In the above piece, Pop Feminist blogger Naira Ruiz addresses the harms created by such conceptualizations—namely, through the pathologizing of victims who stay in abusive relationships and the minimizing of violence which is not overt and physical.

Criminal Justice System, Research, Restorative Justice, Uncategorized

Restorative Justice more Effective for Serious Crimes

As we've mentioned elsewhere on this blog, serious concerns exist with regards to use of restorative justice to address violent criminal offenses. Of the few restorative justice programs in existence across the U.S, the majority target juvenile offenders who have committed low-level, non-violent property crimes. The National Council on Crime and Delinquency which has implemented a restorative juvenile diversion program throughout Almeda County in Oakland, CA is one notable example. In New Zealand however, where the use of RJ throughout the criminal justice system is widespread, new research has challenged the notion that RJ would be ineffective in addressing the harms caused by more serious crimes. In fact, the study claims that RJ may actually be more effective in helping victims heal and in reducing rates of reoffending in cases where the criminal offense is more serious in nature.

Highlights of this new research includes the following as reported by New Zealand's Scoop Independent News:

Restorative Justice conferencing is more effective in cases of serious crime, particularly cases of violence, than in cases of property theft, or minor incidents. Overall, restorative justice conferencing, reduces reoffending by about 20%, with around 90% of victims registering satisfaction with the process, and indicating that it has helped them in the healing process.

A 2007 UK Ministry of Justice research concluded that there was a 27% drop in reoffending by those who experienced restorative justice across a wide range of offences from less serious juvenile crime through to adult robbery and serious assault, compared with those who took part in the usual criminal justice process.

A 2011 New Zealand research showed a 20% reduction in reoffending, and long term fiscal benefits arising out of 1,500 conferences of $7.6m for the public sector, and $9.9m for the private sector.

Read the full story here

Intimate Partner Violence, Research, Violence Intervention

Research on DV Intervention and Treatment is Desperately Needed

A recently published article in the Scientific American has revealed that increased training for doctors and other healthcare professionals is key to identifying victims of intimate partner violence. Unfortunately however, professionals often lack the tools needed to help such victims and their families end or escape the violence they are experiencing. "More than one in three women and more than one in four men fall prey to stalking, rape or other physical or psychological violence by a partner at some time in their lives. Despite these grim statistics and evidence that victims can end up suffering mental and physical health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder, health professionals have yet to nail down the best way to stop the abuse—which they call “intimate partner violence”—and to care for those affected by it."

Read the full article here

Restorative Justice, Schools, Uncategorized

Discipline Reform in NYC Schools

Hilary Lustick, a former high school English teacher in Brooklyn and current member of Teachers Unite, provides important insights regarding the discussion of punitive disciplinary measures in schools. Based on her past experience as an educator, in addition to information gathered through interviews with New York City teachers, Lustick contends that discipline reform is desperately needed and restorative justice offers a viable solution.

Just Restoration vs. "It's Just Policy": What Will it Take to Truly Reform School Discipline?

Criminal Justice System, Uncategorized, Violence Intervention

Save Our Streets: Alternatives to Violence Intervention and Prevention

SOS-Crown-HeightsBetween 2010 and 2012 The Center for Court Innovation evaluated the efficacy of the Save Our Streets (SOS) project to combat gun violence in Brooklyn's Crown Heights neighborhood. SOS is a remarkable community-based organization which has developed an innovative approach to dealing with gun violence. Using outreach workers to target high risk individuals--namely, those who are at risk of either perpetrating or falling victim to gun violence--SOS has had a significant impact on rates of violence in the community. SOS outreach workers also engage in violence interruption--a strategy used to identify and mediate conflicts which have the potential to erupt in gun violence. The study concluded through monthly analysis of gun violence in Crown Heights that overall, violence dropped by 6%, while 3 comparison neighborhoods saw an increase in gun violence by 18% to 28%

This is an inspiring story for anyone who is interested in restorative justice. Specifically, the work of SOS supports the idea that violent behavior is not inevitable and that change is possible without punitive punishment. By focusing on the individual and providing support to both (potential) victim and offender, SOS has effectively prevented future acts of violence from taking place.

To learn more about SOS, visit their website by clicking here. Information about the specifics of their anti-violence program model can found here.

Criminal Justice System, Prison, Restorative Justice, Uncategorized

Victim-Offender Dialogue at San Quentin Prison

In 1990, a man by the name of Kairi was arrested and convicted of first-degree murder. He was subsequently sentenced to serve 26 years in California's San Quentin prison. Twenty-three years later the San Quentin Radio Project spoke with Kairi about his experience in the prison's restorative justice program which brings victim and offender together for a healing dialogue. After meeting with the sister of the man he had murdered, Kairi commented, "I wasn't aware of the impact that I was causing to her family. Not just to her family, but the community at large. So when you sit across from someone that you've harmed, you’re going to hear from them personally what that affect was and how that affected their lives...". This powerful interview can be heard in its entirety here

Restorative Justice, Schools, Uncategorized

Students and Faculty Advocate for RJ in Schools

Students, teachers, and parents across the nation are demanding an end to punitive school-based polices which have led to shockingly high suspension rates among students--particularly among the Black and Latino student body. With the goal of eliminating the detrimental effects that suspensions have had on teacher-student relations, as well as on the educational outcomes for targeted students, Fresno Unified School District has voted to dedicate half a million dollars towards the implementation of restorative justice programs in their schools. Following this national trend, New York City students have begun to demand an end to punitive punishments and policing of youth in schools, advocating instead for restorative justice approaches to discipline. restorative-justice_med


To learn more about the movement to implement restorative justice practices in New York City schools, click here

Uncategorized, Violence Intervention

Community Responses to Violence: Advocacy Based Counseling

Community United Against Violence (CUAV)--a San Francisco, California based advocacy group--is leading the way in violence intervention and prevention strategies. CUAV pays particular attention to violence and abuse within the LGBTQ community--a population which has historically been underrepresented within the domestic violence movement. The emphasis of CUAV work is on safety, healing, and skill building in order to support healthy relationships. In addition to leadership development and support groups, individuals dealing with abuse can receive short term counseling through CUAV's Advocacy Based Counseling (ABC) program. With a focus on reinforcing the self-determination and autonomy of the participant, as well as the inclusion of partners, family members, and peers in the therapy process, the ABC model is unique among violence intervention programs. For more information about CUAV's anti-violence work visit their website, here

Criminal Justice System, Restorative Justice

RJ in the Courts

Since it's founding in 1907, The National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) spearheaded efforts to apply innovative research to policy and practice models within the criminal justice, juvenile justice, and child welfare systems. In Alameda County, CA, NCCD has developed and implemented a restorative juvenile diversion program--the goal of which is to reduce rates of incarceration and recidivism while promoting healing for the victims of crimes. Commenting on the beneficial outcomes of restorative justice within the criminal justice system, Sujatha Baliga--Senior Program Specialist for NCCD--had the following to say: " some ways, the state can even stand in sort of to remove power from victims at times, depending on the district attorney who's involved. But when victims actually get to be part of participatory dialogue and decision-making, it is an incredibly empowering experience"

Listen to Sajutha Baliga speak more about NCCD's restorative justice program in Alameda County here

Intimate Partner Violence

Rethinking IPV

Responding to the shockingly high rates of domestic violence homicides in Serbia, Saatchi & Saatchi Belgrade--a Serbian based advertising company--released the video, "One photo a day in the worst year of my life". The video is a compilation of pictures which presumably detail one woman's experience with intimate partner violence (IPV). As the video progresses, so too does the violence against her. Bruises, black eyes, and choke marks begin to appear and then heal. The final image shows the woman, badly beaten, holding up a sign that reads "Help me. I don't know if I'll make it to tomorrow". While the video does not depict an actual case of IPV (the injuries were artificially created using make-up), the images nonetheless resonated with millions who shared the video on social media, taking the opportunity to raise awareness about IPV and to share resources for survivors.

As I watched the video though, my discomfort with its message grew. While I fully support efforts to raise awareness about IPV, I am concerned that this video obscures, rather than highlights the nature of partner violence. The image of a female victim, looking self-confident one minute, fearful and beaten the next, seems to fit neatly with a stereotypical conceptualization of IPV.

To be sure, there will be some who see this video and it resonates because of personal experiences. Others will connect with the message of the video as it speaks to statistics which reveal that severe violence (being hit with a fist or something hard, slammed into something, or beaten) affects 23.4% of female IPV survivors

This portrayal however seems too simplistic. It leaves unchallenged the false assumption that victims are always women, and batterers are always men acting on their patriarchal urges to control women. It supports the idea that women who experience violence at the hands of their partners are helpless and in need of saving. In the end, it appears to support a pathological view of IPV survivors--those women who choose to stay with their abusers--as well as punitive responses by the state.

The reality of IPV is much more complicated. Partner violence can happen once or over the course of a relationship; both couples may be mutually combative or the violence may be one directional; some couples may wish to stay together while others want to end a destructive and unsafe relationship but they aren't sure how to escape. Our responses to IPV should be complex and nuanced--responsive to individual situations. In the end it's the only way to truly put an end to the violence many individuals experience in intimate relationships.