Category Archives: Restorative Justice

CVR Blog: New and Improved Website!

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We are very excited to unveil our new and improved website! To continue following the Center on Violence blog, and to receive updates about our ongoing research projects and upcoming events, please visit the new site here.

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Oakland ends suspensions for willful defiance, funds restorative justice

Reporting for EdSource, Susan Fray details Oakland Unified’s recent decision to eliminate the suspension category of willful defiance, maing them the fourth major California school districts to remove the controversial category. Willful defiance suspensions make up a large number of the total suspensions in public schools and have disproportionately impacted Black and Latino students across the state. In addition to this disproportionate impact, willful definance suspensions have been criticized for being a catch-all for a range of negative school based behaviors including not completing a homework assignment or talking back to a teacher.

In conjunction with this decsion, Oakland Unified has pledged to invest $2.3 million dollars to fund restorative justice disciplinary alternatives throughout Oakland public schools. Commenting on the Board’s bold move, superintendent Antwan Wilson stated, “If we are to ensure that success for Oakland children is not determined by cultural background or neighborhood, it means that we must build strong relationships with our students at school and invest deeply in restorative practices. This is about re-integrating students into the classroom rather than excluding them from learning.”

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To learn more about the restorative justice work underway throughout Oakland public schools, click here.

Restorative Justice: How it’s redefining what it means to be a man for Santa Ana’s troubled Latino youth

Known as restorative justice, it’s being used in schools across the state to create accountability and unity through community building circles – a model that traces its roots to indigenous societies.

The practices take different forms. In Long Beach, for example, programs have catered to second-generation Southeast Asian youth, reeling from their parents’ trauma of the Cambodian genocide.

Here in Santa Ana, coordinators are hoping to reach Latino youth by instilling a “rites of passage” curriculum, or Joven Noble, that challenges the myth that manhood is defined by physical dominance and sex. Manhood, the practice says, is about honor, generosity and respect.

Read the full article here.

Shame and Batterer Intervention

Shame is a highly complex and potentially dangerous human emotion often associated with intolerable feelings of humiliation, disgrace, and embarrassment (Mills, 2008). In contrast to guilt which focuses on behavior, shame refers to a particular state of emotionality where an individual’s entire sense of self is targeted for critique (Tangney, 1996 cited in Kivisto et al. 2011).

Understanding this difference is hugely important to the study of violent and aggressive behavior–and thus to the field of domestic violence–primarily because of the differential impact guilt and shame are thought to have on the promotion of violent behavior. Whereas guilt has been found to deter aggression, both towards ourselves and against others, shame tends to promote anger and violence (Tangney, 1996, cited in Kivisto et al. 2011). Shame is experienced as such an intensely painful emotion that it is suppressed at all costs. It eventually and inevitably erupts though, displaying itself in harmful behaviors that can include self-mutilation, substance abuse, and suicidal ideation (Mills, 2008). Shame can also result in the externalization of this pain, manifesting in violence directed at other people (Mills, 2008; Gilligan, 1999).

This fact holds particular relevance for the domestic violence field. Specifically, research on the link between shame and aggression provides often overlooked insight into the etiology of partner violence in addition to shedding light on why traditional models of intervention and treatment–exemplified by Duluth-style programs–have failed to break the cycle of violence and keep victims safe.

Shame and Partner Violence

It is well established that one of the single greatest predictors for the perpetuation of partner violence is having witnessed physical aggression between parents in one’s family of origin. Dutton, van Ginkel, and Starzomski (1995, cited in Kivisto et al. 2011) found however, that when parental physical violence was controlled for, shaming experiences were more strongly correlated with adult perpetuation of partner violence. To be sure, direct shaming of children can co-occur with parental physical violence, and further, physical violence against children is shame-inducing in that such experiences communicate to children that they are unloveable (Gilligan, 1999). The importance of Dutton and colleagues findings however underscore the powerful and potentially dangerous role of shame in the promotion of violent acting out.

Taken together, findings such as these highlight the powerful effect that shame has on the developing child’s personality and on the likelihood of adult perpetration of aggressive and physical forms of partner violence: “Early shaming experiences contribute to the formation of the ‘abusive personality’, characterized by high levels of chronic anger and an attributional style of externalizing blame, and parental physical abusiveness provides the modeling of behaviors to express anger characteristic of this type of personality”.

Unfortunately, advocates and professionals working in the domestic violence field have strongly resisted the inclusion of psychological factors in theories of causation (Corvo & Johnson, 2003). The traditional paradigm favors instead, an ideologically based explanation that conceptualizes partner violence as culturally sanctioned behavior, deployed consciously and strategically by men against their female partners, in order to exert their (men’s) perceived right to power and control (Corvo & Johnson, 2003). Attempts to expand the etiological parameters established by feminist discourse in the field are dismissed as making excuses for a perpetrator’s violent behavior or worse, as victim-blaming. Critics of this rigid framework contend however, that seeking to understand why someone behaves the way they do hardly justifies the bad behavior. In the end, disrupting the cycle of violence is only possible to the extent that we accurately identify the root causes of such behavior.

To date, the ideological stranglehold that posits a singular theory of causation for domestic violence has prevented the development of more accurate and precise etiological theories; stunted scientific inquiry into more effective interventions and treatment models; and given birth to federal and state policies which rely almost exclusively on punitive, criminal justice-based responses to domestic violence. In spite of a growing body of research which challenges the efficacy and safety of Duluth-style programs, it remains the treatment of choice for domestically violent individuals (Corvo & Johnson, 2003).

Implications for Treatment

If early experiences of direct shaming put children at risk for adult perpetration of partner violence, then it is no wonder that current interventions have have failed to meaningfully address abusive behavior. Besides failing to target the root cause(s) of violent behavior, interventions that rely on punitive, anti-therapeutic responses can be seen as shame inducing themselves and thus might contribute to continued incidents of partner abuse. Corvo and Johnson (2003) contend for example that much of our legal, clinical, and social responses are rooted in the ‘vilification of the batterer’: “The popular, policy, and ‘scientific’ designation of perpetrators of partner violence as being appropriate targets for dismissive, degrading, and stereotypical characterizations”. Such a response is likely to activate the perpetrators trauma history and could reinforce, rather than uproot, maladaptive behaviors.

Advocates who ascribe to the Duluth Model assert that if domestic violence perpetrators could just unlearn their patriarchal socialization, they could stop being abusive. The above cited research indicates that partner violence is far more complicated than that though, often–although not always–having roots in a abusers own long and painful history of victimization.

This is not to say that we should adopt a universal policy of addressing partner violence solely through a psychological lens. We should however, investigate and develop theories of causation that identify all of the social, psychological, and biological factors that potentially contribute to partner violence. Interventions should be tailored to the unique needs of each victim and perpetrator rather than the one size fits all approach of Duluth-style programs. Finally, professionals in the field must resist conceptualizations of perpetrators as treatment resistant villains who are undeserving of help and should utilize intervention models that are responsive, holistic, and that affirm the humanity of all those involved in the treatment process.

Creating Victim-Centered Responses to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

We are very excited to share the following information on upcoming events taking place in New York and in California! Both events focus on beginning a dialogue around the creation of more sensitive and victim-centered responses to partner violence and sexual assault. Please see below for more information.

Addressing Victims’ Needs: Creating Holistic Models of Support for Victims of Intimate Partner Violence

Hosted by NYU Center on Violence and Recovery
Kimmel Center, New York University, 60 Washington Square South, Room 905, New York, New York, 10003
Thursday, April 16 at 3:00pm – 5:00pm EST

Community experts, Dr. Faye Zakheim, Billye Jones, Priya Chandra, and the Reverend Dr. Donna Schaper, will discuss the creation of holistic models of support for victims of intimate partner violence. Participants will gain insight into the commonly overlooked needs of unique populations and the challenges of building comprehensive services for victims. They will also learn how spiritual life, community integration, and support groups can play a role in the healing process. Light refreshments will be served.

To RSVP, visit CVR’s Facebook page.

Justice That Heals: Confronting Gender Violence on Campus & in Communities

Hosted by Restorative Justice Center at University of California, Berkeley
Hearst Field Annex D-37, University of California, Berkeley
Saturday, April 11 at 9:30am – 4:30pm PST

With campus and criminal justice policies under fire for ignoring the needs of survivors of gender-based violence, people are looking for alternatives. This conference brings together academics and activists to explore the possibilities and limitations of Restorative / Transformative Justice in response to sexual violence and misconduct on campus and in communities that experience structural oppression.

Keynote speaker Dr. Mary Koss is the co-founder and principal investigator of the RESTORE program in Arizona, which has designed Restorative processes that emphasize the needs of survivors and responsible parties. She is now applying her expertise to the question of sexual misconduct on college campuses. Workshops and panels will explain RJ / TJ processes and present critical analysis of their capacity to repair flawed or broken systems.

For questions or concerns email: rjcenterberkeley@gmail.com
To RSVP, visit the Restorative Justice Center’s Facebook page

New York City preparing to expand restorative justice programs

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Jackie Schecter reports for Chalkbeat on New York City’s plan to expand restorative justice programs throughout public schools.

The head of the Department of Education’s Office of Safety and Youth Development verbally committed to provide new support for restorative justice programs at a May meeting about school discipline issues, according to two attendees. Though few details of the expansion have been finalized, the agreement represents the administration’s first step toward enacting discipline policy changes that Chancellor Carmen Fariña and Mayor Bill de Blasio have both called for.

Click here to read the full article.

Continued success of RJ in schools offers hope for the domestic violence field

Recently released data from the 2013-14 school year reveals that suspension and expulsion rates throughout California public schools continue to decline. This is the second year in a row that rates of suspensions and expulsions have dropped across the state. The report, released by the California Department of Education (CDE), notes that this downward trend has correlated with the implementation of innovative and non-punitive responses to classroom rule breaking. Such responses include the development and broad utilization of restorative justice programs.

Lisa Schmidt–a juvenile defense attorney who represents youth in suspension and expulsion hearings–contends that the results presented in the CDE report have implications that extend far beyond student discipline. For example, Schmidt highlights that schools with restorative justice programs not only report lower rates of suspension and expulsion, they also report marked improvements in other areas including graduation rates, absenteeism, and literacy.

Schmidt goes on to say that the efficacy of restorative justice programs lies in the core assumption that students’ problem behavior can be positively changed: “…restorative justice doesn’t simply remove a problem from the classroom. Instead it uses misbehavior as a learning opportunity, teaching students the consequences of their actions and how to make better choices”.

Implications for Domestic Violence Intervention

Here at the Center on Violence and Recovery (CVR) we remain committed to the idea that the theory of restorative justice (RJ) offers victims of violence and trauma efficacious ways of ending the violence that has plagued their lives. This includes victims of domestic and intimate partner violence. We are inspired by the diligent work of teachers, parents, and students in public schools across the nation who have fought back against punitive responses to school-based behavior infractions–responses which have wholly failed to address the identified problem behavior. The data released by the CDE should motivate all those who are passionate about the development of more effective and victim-centered responses to crime and wrongdoing.

CVR strongly believes that RJ theory and practice, when used properly, can increase victim safety, help survivors heal, and ultimately decrease rates of repeat incidents of domestic violence. In addition to working with survivors around their identified needs, RJ offers the potential to intervene with perpetrators in a meaningful way by holding offenders accountable for their actions and teaching alternatives to violent and aggressive behavior.

Our belief in RJ as a DV intervention stems from the encouraging research results of CVR’s National Science Foundation funded-study which indicated that RJ-based interventions for domestic violence can be both safe and effective with regards to preventing future violent incidents (Mills, Barocas, & Ariel, 2012). Published in 2012, the research found that when compared to offenders who had undergone treatment in a traditional batterer intervention program, offenders who in the RJ-based model, recidivated at significantly lower rates 12-months post random assignment. This research is currently being replicated in Salt Lake City, UT.

Coupled with the growing support that restorative justice programs are receiving in schools across the nation to deal with problematic, defiant, and sometimes violent behavior, these findings provide victims and advocates alike tangible hope for a violence-free future.

For more information on the exciting and innovative research work underway at CVR, please visit our website here

Full citation for the Center’s 2012 study: The next generation of court-mandated domestic violence treatment: A comparison study of batterer intervention and restorative justice programs. Journal of Experimental Criminology 9(1) DOI: 10.1007/s11292-012-9164-x

Portraits of Reconciliation

Pieter Hugo’s photo series entitled Portraits of Reconciliation, powerfully documents the ongoing process of healing that has followed the Rwandan genocide. In the photos, Hutu perpetrators of genocide stand next to the Tutsi survivor of their crime who has granted them pardon. Below each photograph is a quote from both perpetrator and survivor explaining their role in the genocide and in the reconciliation process currently underway. The following is one example:

Dominique Ndahimana (perpetrator): “The day I thought of asking pardon, I felt unburdened and relieved. I had lost my humanity because of the crime I committed, but now I am like any human being.”

Cansilde Munganyinka (survivor): “After I was chased from my village and Dominique and others looted it, I became homeless and insane. Later, when he asked my pardon, I said: ‘I have nothing to feed my children. Are you going to help raise my children? Are you going to build a house for them?’ The next week, Dominique came with some survivors and former prisoners who perpetrated genocide. There were more than 50 of them, and they built my family a house. Ever since then, I have started to feel better. I was like a dry stick; now I feel peaceful in my heart, and I share this peace with my neighbors.”

This is just one of many examples which are documented in the series. What is most striking about this project—besides the images of victim and perpetrator standing together with some even holding hands—is the theme of forgiveness and healing. Contrasting our own justice system in the U.S for a moment, victims rarely receive the kind of justice documented here. For example, the victims of genocide were empowered with the decision to grant their perpetrators pardon. As the quote above illustrates, it was the victim who identified the harm that required repair, and it was up to the perpetrator to follow through with the difficult task of attending to the needs of his victim. Forgiveness was a major part of this process, but it was conceptualized differently by each participant. Some victims remained close to those who had perpetrated violence against them following the reconciliation process while others chose to grant pardon, and nothing else. The survivors’ testimonies reveal that when a harm is acknowledged in full, requiring complete honesty on the part of the perpetrator to take full responsibility for their actions, healing and reparation can take place.

The bravery and strength displayed by the survivors in the Rwandan reconciliation process is admirable and inspirational. It is imperative that those involved in criminal justice reform activities explore what this work means for us in the U.S as we struggle to develop effective ways of reducing recidivism and meaningful ways of addressing the needs of victims.

Pieter Hugo’s work can be found, here.

Creative Interventions: Community-Based IPV Intervention

The Mission of Creative Interventions is to create community-based options for interventions to interpersonal violence. Creative Interventions provides collective, creative, and flexible solutions, which take into account the realities and resources of each situation and community. By bringing knowledge and power back to those closest to and most impacted by violence, Creative Interventions breaks isolation and clears the path towards holistic, viable and sustainable systems of violence intervention and community health.

Established in 2004, Creative Interventions is an innovative and powerful resource for survivors and advocates who have experienced frustration and failure with current responses to intimate partner violence (IPV). Mimi Kim, founder of Creative Interventions, reports that after working with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault for over 15 years she began to ask herself challenging questions related to the assumptions underlying traditional intervention strategies.

“After taking hundreds of crisis calls from survivors of domestic violence, I realized that I always asked the questions, Have you thought of leaving? Did you call the police? Why did my solutions assume that leaving was the only option? Why did they assume that the best way to achieve safety was to call the police? Why weren’t there any other options?”

This is an indispensable resource for everyone who works in the domestic violence field. On their website, Creative Intervention provides access to a Toolkit which outlines the community-based model for violence intervention. This toolkit can be downloaded in full, or if more appropriate, the individual intervention tools can be downloaded and tailored to fit victim and/or agency need.

For more information on the exciting work underway at Creative Interventions, please visit their website by clicking here.

To access the Toolkit, click here

Combating the Suspension to Prison Pipeline with Restorative Justice

Jaisal Noor of The Real News Network recently sat down with high school senior, and organizer with the Dignity in Schools Campaign, to discuss the impact that zero tolerance polices have on youth in the Baltimore public school system. Murphy explains that there is a heavy police presence throughout his high school, but rather than increasing student safety on campus, Murphy contends that this over-reliance on law enforcement has decreased students’ perceived sense of safety.

“…it made me raise a series of questions, one of which was: is this school safe? Because the first thing that I do when I walk into a new high school is see a police officer. And so that made me aware of, like, do I–should I constantly be alert at all times here?”

In addition to students’ sense of safety being compromised, increased police presence combined with zero tolerance polices have led to sky-rocketing rates of suspension, primarily among students of color and students with disabilities. The New York World reports that during the 2012-2013 school year, New York City public schools dolled out 53,465 suspensions. The New York World reveals further, that more than half of these suspensions targeted Black students who make up just 27% of the student population. Special education students, who make up 12% of the student population, accounted for one-third of all suspensions.

Broken down by borough, Bronx students represent 51% of all arrests, suspensions, and tickets for school-related offenses, followed by Brooklyn (30%), Queens (11.4%), Manhattan (10.4%), and Staten Island (1.5%). A similar trend is found when this data is broken down by race: roughly 50% of all suspensions were of Black students, followed by Latino (33%) and white students (15%).

Pushing Students Out

Faced with this increasing criminalization of public schools and the student body, Jaisal Noor asks the following question: Are we preparing kids to go to jail, or preparing them for a future? Unfortunately for students, teachers, and parents the answer appears to be the former.

The United Federation of Teachers, which represents New York City teachers asserts that punitive measures such as suspensions should be the absolute last resort used to deal with student misbehavior, if used at all. The unfortunate reality however, is that suspensions are the first, and in many cases the only, tactic employed by public schools to deal with minor student conduct infractions. For example, the second most common offense leading to a suspension in New York City schools is “defying or disobeying authority”.

This punitive culture has led to the disturbing and increasing trend that high school senior Tre Murphy described above: namely, increasing reliance on law enforcement officials to handle disciplinary issues that take place on school grounds
. A complaint filed with the U.S Department of Justice this past Wednesday against Wake County, N.C., school district and law enforcement agencies contends that the district has failed to “stem the tide of students being pushed out of school into juvenile and criminal court systems”.

Huffington Post contributor Saki Knafo details how minor incidents of misbehavior in the Wake County school district—such as cutting in a cafeteria lunch line—have landed students in jail. As with raising rates of suspensions, this trend disproportionally impacts students of color and students with disabilities.

Combating the School to Prison Pipeline

The last few years have seen a strong push back by students, parents, and teachers against punitive responses to school disciplinary issues. Notable successes of this fightback include the recent decision of the Los Angeles Unified school board to ban suspensions for the act of “willful defiance”. This offense has been “criticized as a subjective catch-all for such behavior as refusing to take off a hat, turn off a cellphone or failing to wear a school uniform”. Students exhibiting disruptive behavior will no longer be suspended, instead, positive behavior reinforcement and other more effective intervention measures will be used. Indeed, current punitive practices which remove students from schools, and increasingly land them in jail, have been linked with decreased academic achievement and increased run-ins with law enforcement.

Advocates in New York City are hopeful that the election of Bill de Blasio as Mayor will usher in a wave of school-based disciplinary reforms, with a particular emphasis on restorative justice responses to student misbehavior. In June of 2013, de Blasio co-authored a letter calling on the city Department of Education to “expand the use of positive interventions and restorative justice practices, such as counseling, mediation, fairness committees, and restorative circles in lieu of suspensions, except when suspension is required by law”. Many New York City schools have already begun to implement such practices and, students report, they have had a positive impact on the student body. Bronx international high school junior and trained peer mediator Jessica Morillo states, “Let’s say we get into a fight…before we had the mediation program at our school, we would have never talked and gotten to a real solution. We would have just got each other suspended. I would be angry and you would be angry.”

Some within the city Department of Education contend that the costs of retraining teachers and hiring additional staff such as school social workers is too high and beyond the shrinking budget of public schools. Advocates however, disagree. Anna Bean of the New York City-based Teachers Unite asserts, “It doesn’t cost very much money. Just 1 percent of School Safety budget would fund all of this”. New York World reports that Bean’s comment refers to the $220 million that was spent in 2012 to keep unarmed NYPD officers in public schools. Thus, it appears that the difficulties associated with funding alternative disciplinary measures in pubic schools lies not with a lack of money, but with an unequal allocation of resources.

The advocacy and activist work carried out by concerned teachers, students, and parents is inspiring for anyone who is interested in the development of alternatives to current approaches to wrongdoing. In response to ineffective and harmful school-based policies, those who have been directly and indirectly effected are waging a vigorous fight against the continued criminalization and marginalization of youth within schools. With continued education on the pitfalls of the current system, coupled with the development of responsive, victim-centered solutions, 2014 is bound to see exciting changes in school-based disciplinary measures.

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