Lancaster Area Victim Offender Reconciliation Program Keynote Address_Part4

Lancaster Area Victim Offender Reconciliation Program Keynote Address_Part4

Today’s post is the final segment of a 4-part post of the keynote speech I offered at last week’s Lancaster Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (LAVORP) Annual Dinner

Link to Part 1
Link to Part 2
Link to Part 3


Boise, Albuquerque and City Heights aren’t the only places striving to incorporate restorative practices into the very fabric of their communities. Other communities are taking the next step beyond being “a community with a restorative justice program” to being a community that embraces restorative principles and practices in their schools, neighborhoods, churches, businesses, government agencies, and elsewhere.

Washtenaw County, Michigan; Sonoma County, California; and Charlottesville, Virginia are a few other communities in the US attempting to become restorative communities.

And in New Zealand and Nova Scotia, they’re developing even more widespread implementations of restorative practices. Nova Scotia aims to be a fully restorative province, and New Zealand is working toward being a fully restorative country. (and, no, I haven’t gotten to travel to either of THOSE places . . . yet!!)

How wonderful it would be to add Lancaster County, PA to that list!

While it might sound like a daunting task, the great news is that programs and services LAVORP already offers could be expanded to supply much of what we’d need – patches for a “restorative community” quilt, if you will.

In addition to the long-established victim offender mediations, LAVORP also offers:
• family group decision making facilitation
• peacemaking circles facilitation
Making Peace training program in conflict resolution
• And LAVORP has a well-established training program to teach people about restorative practices

What would it take to stitch these pieces of the quilt together for Lancaster County?

At each of your tables, you’ll find an envelope containing photos of the quilt made by those women in North Carolina. I invite each of you to take one of these photos home with you tonight, put it in a place where you can see it and, in the coming days and weeks, reflect on how you, personally, might foster wholeness, address harm and promote healing in your own family, neighborhood, workplace, school or church. I also invite you to consider how you will support the continuing work of LAVORP and its network of mediators, trainers and facilitators so that we can begin to stitch together a “restorative community quilt” for Lancaster County.

I’ll close this evening by sharing a few last pieces of the story of those seven women in North Carolina and their quilt.

I had the opportunity, in my travels, to talk at length with one of those women. Her name is Jean. Jean’s sister Betsy had been murdered nearly 30 years before the women got together to make their quilt. Jean continued to feel pain from that torn piece of her life. But she told me that having the mother and the daughter of a man on death row in their quilting circle, and hearing their stories about their loved one, gave her a glimpse into the pain and loss they, too, had experienced. She felt blessed to be a part of their healing, and to have them be a part of hers.

In the years since the women completed their quilt, Jean has continued to work for restoration and healing in her community.

Remember the story of Edward Chapman, who had been wrongfully convicted and spent 15 years on death row? Jean has become part of Edward’s circle of supporters and friends. Just last week, Jean and dozens of other people in the community held the Third Annual Freedom Ball for Edward – to raise funds to help with his living expenses, as Edward is struggling to get by with a low-paying job as a dishwasher. They have also helped him apply for a pardon of innocence from the state governor, which would give him some financial compensation for the 15 years he spent in prison. Jean told me that she sees her efforts to help Edward as “a restorative way to address the injustice done to Ed in our collective names.”

The women in that quilting circle no longer meet on a regular basis. Sadly, two of the women have since passed away.

But the quilt they created continues to inspire those who see it and hear the story of the seven women who made it. It has a place of honor in the offices of an organization working to abolish the death penalty in North Carolina. Occasionally the quilt is taken to other places around the country where its message of hope and healing might be needed.

A brief write-up that travels with the quilt offers this message:

While each square represents each woman’s story and honors her loved one, the quilt as a whole represents the complexity and depth of pain of the larger community . . . The quilt was designed with pockets so that others might write their own stories or prayers for healing . . . The quilt . . . reminds us of the possibility for beauty, hope, creativity and healing when we share our stories with one another . . . United by their grief and hope for a future free of violence, the women stitched together not only this beautiful quilt, but also a diverse community of trust and love . . .

What could each of US do to foster wholeness, address harm and promote healing, in our families, neighborhoods, schools, churches, and workplaces?

How might we stitch together a “diverse community of trust and love” – a RESTORATIVE community – here in Lancaster County?

Posted by Melanie Tagged as: grace goes to prison restorative justice criminal justice book tour death penalty

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