By David Levine, JJIE.org
Hey, you! Yes, YOU can make it happen! Anyone can. Whether you are a principal, a student, counselor or teacher, you can be the one to speak up for restorative justice. “Be the change you wish to see in the world” (Mahatma Gandhi).
Though I currently work full time as a restorative justice facilitator, it wasn’t always this way. At my last school it was a student, a junior, who decided our school needed this approach. He found backing from our principal, and he found a mentor in me, his advisor/teacher.
Juan (name changed), convicted of aggravated assault at 21, has been in solitary for five years. He has seen and experienced it all: brutal cell extractions, hunger strikes, flooded pods and endless hours spent screaming at his cell door.
By the time I met him, he’d racked up over 80 misconducts in numerous prisons and earned the enmity of most of the officers forced to deal with him. Hardly your model inmate.
Yet from our very first visit, I was struck by the humility and sadness in his eyes. Somehow, despite his “bad-boy” reputation, I sensed there was more to him, something worth saving.
The other day I visited a young black man from Philadelphia doing time for an armed robbery.
First, let me say that there is no way I could have imagined spending time with a thug like Steve before I was led into prison ministry — and it’s safe to assume most people would feel likewise. That’s why I’d like to share what happened. If nothing else, maybe this story will make everyone hug their families extra close tonight and thank God for our blessings.
Steve is about 5 foot 4, with thick glasses and a nervous stutter. I first met him about a year ago. He was so anxious during our first interview, he could barely string three words together and his hands shook like someone suffering end-stage Parkinson’s.
By Judge Steven Teske
Champions for change is key to reform. No champions, no change.
No matter the number of evidence-based programs we identify, and the best approaches and models to deliver them, they are meaningless unless someone calls attention to them.
And when all else fails, the law must be changed to force leaders to lead.
Mandating change is sometimes necessary because leadership is like a flashlight — what we see depends on who is holding the flashlight. Not all leaders direct the circumscribed beam of light in the direction of what works.
by Judge George Timberlake, Ret., JJIE.org
Recently, I had a visit from a couple I have known for decades. Let’s call them Butch and Mary. They had a problem: Their daughter, Jane, had just split from the father of her child, and custody and other issues had arisen. During the conversation, I asked about family relationships and resources and Mary said that the whole family was supportive except one grandmother.
That grandparent had become estranged when she learned a few years ago that Jane was “dating a girl.” There was no hesitation in relaying this information, and no judgments about this history were indicated in this statement of fact. My friends’ willingness to openly discuss these family issues was enlightening.
If we were to seek a label for Jane — as her paramour’s attorney might do in a custody battle — would she be lesbian, bisexual, curious or “cured?” And what effect would that have on the court system in its duty to do justice?
If the U.S. Supreme Court has declared gay marriage to be part of the fundamental rights of privacy, speech and expression for all American citizens, does that signal the acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals as illustrated by my friends?
For the juvenile justice and child welfare courts, the answer is decidedly “No.” In a 2010 report, the National Council of Crime and Delinquency found that LGBT youth comprise 5 to 7 percent of the general population but approximately 15 percent of detained youth. Subsequent research has verified that finding and has looked for causes of this disproportionality.