Restorative Justice

TEDx Talk on Prisons as a LAST RESORT

Grace Marie Hamilton has taught me so very much, both through the extensive interviews with her that went into writing “Grace Goes to Prison”, and in the years since the book’s publication, as she has become both my mentor and teacher. Grace Marie has a number of “sayings” that she’s shared with me. One of them is:

“Prisons should be used ONLY for the people we don’t yet know how to help.”

I recently had the honor of being one of the speakers at a TEDx event, and I used what Grace Marie taught me to craft a talk around the radical suggestion that our prisons should be used only as an option of last resort. Here it is:

TEDx Talk: #PrisonAsALastResort

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Prayers for Jerry, from “Grace Goes to Prison”

Those of you who read “Grace Goes to Prison” may recall stories of a man named Jerry in the book. After 27 years of incarceration, Jerry will go in front of the Parole Board for the first time on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 . . .

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Stories from House of Ruth

My last post told of the origins of B.I.R.D. Ministries and House of Ruth. Here are a few stories Linda Bird shared about the women she has served over the years . . .

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Beginning In the Right Direction - B.I.R.D. Ministries

One summer morning in 2001, Linda Bird got a phone call asking if she’d be willing to go into the Lancaster County Prison and teach a parenting class for women incarcerated there. Linda agreed to do the class, even though she had no idea what to expect . . .

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Forging a New Path - Lancaster County Re-Entry Management Organization

Elaina* curls up at one end of the sofa in her living room, as she invites me to have a seat at the other end. The petite 30 year-old has short cropped hair, an engaging smile and a radiant glow about her. She launches right into the story of her path from prison to where she is now . . .

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Imagine (redux) - Lancaster County Re-Entry Management Organization

Imagine arriving in an unfamiliar place, with nothing but a few dollars and the clothes on your back. You don’t have a roadmap or any reliable means of transportation. You aren’t sure where to go or where you’ll sleep tonight. You haven’t eaten for hours and aren’t sure where your next meal will come from . . .

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Taking the Lead - Lancaster County Re-Entry Management Organization

Today’s post focuses on Lancaster – and an aspect of our community that’s often invisible: the challenges people face when transitioning back to the Lancaster community after incarceration. This is Harold’s story . . .

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Seeing the Light - Lancaster County Reentry Management Organization

Today’s post once again focuses on Lancaster – and an aspect of our community that’s often invisible: the challenges people face when transitioning back to the Lancaster community after incarceration. This is Ricky’s story . . .

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The Heart of a Man - Lancaster County Re-Entry Management Organization

After two heart attacks in three months, Lancaster resident, Edward*, was diagnosed with “a bad heart.” His doctor told him he needed to stop working, as the strain on his heart could kill him. It was a shock and a devastating blow to the broad-shouldered, muscular 42 year-old former athlete, who has worked steadily since his teen years . . .

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Leftovers

“Ten Creative Turkey Sandwich Recipes.” This was just one of dozens of articles featured in magazines this month about what to do with the leftovers from the Thanksgiving Day feast.

A few weeks ago, I went to hear Robert Eggers, founder of DC Central Kitchen, talk about how his organization creatively uses “leftovers” of many kinds to address issues of hunger in Washington, DC . . .

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Living Proof - Lancaster County Reentry Management Organization

At 6’2”, with broad shoulders, and a deep bass voice (think “James Earl Jones” and go down a notch), Zach might not look like a man who’d recite poetry . . .

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Restorative Justice in Schools - Lancaster Catholic High School - Part 2

Adrienne Howe, the new Director of Restorative Justice at Lancaster Catholic High School, knows a lot about the importance of “second chances.” For six years before taking this new position at LCHS, Adrienne worked for Lancaster County Adult Probation and Parole, helping people coming out of prison to get out of the cycle of crime and incarceration to become successful . . .

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Restorative Justice in Schools - Lancaster Catholic High School

“Restorative justice is what made me a high school principal,” Tom Fertal tells me. I am, in fact, sitting in the principal’s office (something I haven’t done in a VERY long time!) . . .

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How I Spent My Summer (and Most of Autumn)

This past Friday was Graduation Day for 28 professionals in social services, workforce development and criminal justice agencies from across Pennsylvania. I was one of them . . .

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The NOW Generation of Peacemakers

I spent last evening with 15 long-time community activists and peacemakers. Men and women from right here in Lancaster County who have been involved for years in a variety of causes, from environmental issues to global peacemaking to matters of social justice. All are in the “second half of life” and have already had long careers as lawyers, teachers, healthcare workers, business people, and other professions . . .

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A Sea Change, Rich and Strange

The strong breeze ruffling the curtains of my office window today is a cool weather front coming in, according to the weatherman. A harbinger of the impending change of season. It seems an appropriate metaphor for something else I’ve been feeling lately . . .

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Restorative Justice in Lancaster County - LAVORP at Work

I’m going to wrap up this multi-post series on restorative justice in action with another LAVORP story . . . and a call to action. First, the story . . .

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Restorative Justice and Violent Crime - Part 2

In my last post, I shared the first part of Jenny’s story – about her request to meet with the man who had killed her brother, and the journey of preparing for that meeting. Today’s post is about their face to face meeting . . .

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Restorative Justice and Violent Crime - Part 1

In an earlier post in this series, I told the story of Michael and Mr. Good, and how restorative justice was utilized as an alternative to the criminal justice process. This post is about a different type of restorative justice program, for victims of violent crime . . .

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Back to School - Part 3 - Peer Mediation in Schools

Back in 1989, Frank Albrecht taught phys ed and health at J. P. McCaskey High School in Lancaster, PA. He’d been at McCaskey for four years, and enjoyed teaching students about healthy living and physical fitness. Then, one afternoon after school, five of his students had a fight. One of them was stabbed, nearly fatally, in the heart . . .

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Restorative Justice in the Community

My last few posts have focused on how schools address situations where students violate rules and cause harm in the school setting, and I’ll be writing more on that subject in the coming weeks. But what about situations where young people violate rules or laws and cause harm in our neighborhoods and communities? . . .

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Back to School - Part 2 - Restorative Justice in Schools

A fight broke out in the middle of the hallway at a Lancaster area school. Two teenage boys – one black, one white – threw punches and hurled racial slurs at each other . . .

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Back to School - Part 1 - Schools and “Zero Tolerance”

This week, lots of my friends have been taking their kids back to college, while others are getting their younger children ready to go back to elementary, middle or high school . . .

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Reflections and Direction

It’s been an intense week of learning, reflection and decisions . . .

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What About the Children?

Last night, both of my children went to sleep many miles away from us, their parents. They were in safe, comfortable surroundings and fell asleep secure in the knowledge that they are deeply loved and that we are here for them, accessible and available any time they need us for anything.

Last night, approximately three million other American children went to sleep many miles away from one or both of their parents, with no way to contact their parents, and no way for their parents to help them with much of anything. Many of these children haven’t even seen their parents for months, maybe even for years . . .

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Secret Beauty - Shakespeare Behind Bars

with guest blogger/co-author Rose Kolonauski

We do pray for mercy; And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.
~ Portia in The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I

On Tuesday, June 14, Rose and Melanie attended a Shakespeare Behind Bars (SBB) performance of “The Merchant of Venice” at the Luther Luckett state prison in LaGrange, Kentucky . . .

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From Harm to Healing - The National Conference on Restorative Justice

Yesterday’s post shared stories of Ann and Therese – two women who have each lost a brother to violence. Both Therese and Ann have found support in their journeys toward healing from several organizations that operate on principles of restorative justice . . .

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Two Sisters, Two Brothers - The National Conference on Restorative Justice

Today’s post focuses on the stories of 2 women who spoke at the National Conference on Restorative Justice. Therese and Ann have each lost a brother . . .

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Each Other’s Angels - The National Conference on Restorative Justice

We are each other’s angels,
And we meet when it is time,
We keep each other going,
And we show each other signs…

(lyrics from “We Are Each Other’s Angels”, written by Chuck Brodsky, and recorded by David LaMotte*.)

Hundreds of “angels” of justice and peace from around the world gathered in Raleigh, North Carolina this week for the National Conference on Restorative Justice . . .

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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

Boise, Albuquerque and City Heights aren’t the only places striving to incorporate restorative practices into the very fabric of their communities . . .

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Lancaster Area Victim Offender Reconciliation Program Keynote Address_Part 3

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

The last question I’d like for us to consider is when we apply restorative justice principles . . .

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Lancaster Area Victim Offender Reconciliation Program Keynote Address_Part 2

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

Let me get back to the quilt story . . . and another question it raises. That is the question of who we might involve in RJ efforts . . .

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Lancaster Area Victim Offender Reconciliation Program Keynote Address_Part 1

I’ve been asked to share the keynote address I offered at last week’s Lancaster Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (LAVORP) Annual Dinner. So, I’ll post it in 4 segments here on my blog over the next 4 days.

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More Buried Treasure

Yesterday, I found more buried treasure here in Lancaster. It was in a nondescript room in a nondescript building on the south side of the city. Not the sort of place anyone would go looking for treasure. But there it was . . .

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Not About the Book

“How was the book tour?” is one of many questions people have been asking in the last couple of days. There are so many possible responses to that question, so many experiences and challenges and things I’ve learned along the way that I will need to reflect on and process and ponder. It may take me weeks, even months to fully understand and formulate my replies to that question.

But my initial response is this . . .

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Walking in the City on a Hill

Cincinnati is a city of hills. Local legend says it was built on seven hills, like Rome, though as I drove up and down, around and through the city, it seemed there were way more than seven. (the van does NOT like hills, either up or down) . . .

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The Passion of Youth, The Wisdom of Elders

College-age peace activists . . . new professors and those with long experience . . . retired social workers, doctors, teachers, pastors, peace activists and others . . . people working to build a fledgling mentoring program for women transitioning out of prison . . . founders of one of oldest programs for perpetrators of domestic abuse in the country . . . all have been part of my journey through Indiana over the past several days.

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Impromptu Pilgrimage

Elkhart, Indiana: a town of about 50,000 people at the confluence of the St. Joseph and Elkhart Rivers in the north-central part of the state. It’s been known as the “Band Instrument Capital of the World” and “RV Capital of the World.” But neither of those was the reason I decided to make an impromptu stop there on my way through this part of the state . . .

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One for the Choir

United Church of Christ, Church of the Brethren and Presbyterian groups in Madison, WI, Chicago and Elgin, IL have hosted me in the past week to share stories of restorative justice and Marie’s work in the prisons . . .

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Interviews on RJ, prison reform, Brethren roots and other good stuff

In the past few weeks, a radio interview, YouTube videos and a web interview have been posted where I’ve talked about restorative justice, Marie’s prison work, prison reform, the Church of the Brethren and other topics. So, in case you’re interested, here are the links.

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One - Revisited

“I am trying to prepare myself for the outside life but how do I do that when I don’t even know what it is or how to expect it,” a man named Rocky wrote to Marie Hamilton shortly before his release from prison. “Believe it or not I don’t know if I want to come out there. Right now I am thinking about turning down parole. . . . Everyone has fears and this one of mines now. If I had someone I could talk to maybe I would feel differently…”

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Imagine

Imagine arriving in a new place, with nothing but a few dollars and the clothes on your back. You don’t have a roadmap or any reliable means of transportation. You aren’t sure where to go or where you’ll stay tonight. You haven’t eaten for hours and aren’t sure where your next meal will come from. You don’t know anyone – at least not anyone who could really help you . . .

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Preparing the Fields

They’re preparing the fields for planting here in Iowa, where I spent most of yesterday driving straight up through the middle of the state on I-35, past farming communities with idyllic names like Garden Grove, Winterset, Swaledale and Woolstock . . .

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One

I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later. Actually, it’s a little surprising that it hadn’t happened before now. But this morning, it struck without warning, with the force of a Kansas twister . . .

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Kindred Spirits . . . and Starfish

An evening of meeting and talking with kindred spirits here in New Mexico has re-energized me and renewed my hope that restorative justice can and will take hold . . .

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Exodus House and Redemption Church in Oklahoma City

I spent Thursday afternoon and evening with folks from Exodus House and Redemption Church, two ministries run by the Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church. These and other programs are part of their “Criminal Justice and Mercy Ministries” (CJAMM), directed by the Reverend Dr. Stan Basler, who had invited me to visit . . .

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Downshift

After a very intense start to this journey, I’ve downshifted into a couple of quiet days in Nashville. I’ve felt somewhat guilty for not having more meetings and speaking gigs set up here, but about half a dozen Nashville-based organizations and individuals I had contacted repeatedly over the past several months just didn’t seem interested enough to respond. I’m not sure why. It’s been frustrating, disappointing, and a little depressing, but finally I had to just let it go and decided to give myself a little break and do some sightseeing.

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The list goes on

The list of great people I’ve met goes on and on . . . here are several more:

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Activists, Peacemakers and Rabble Rousers

Okay, now that I’ve “vented” a little about some of the dissenting voices I heard last week, I’d like to tell you about some of the other wonderful and inspiring people I’ve met who are dedicated and passionate activists, peacemakers and rabble-rousers, each “troubling the waters” in their own way . . .

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Troubling the water

It’s been an interesting week here in the south, where I’ve managed to shake things up, stir the pot, and do some rabble-rousing. I’ve encountered people who sharply disagree with the message of restorative justice . . .

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