FLYY’s Direct Application of Restorative Justice

What is restorative justice and how does FLYY use it?

Restorative justice is both a methodology and a practice. It is embedded in much of how FLYY operates and delivers services. In many places across the globe, restorative justice curriculum and practice are a sign of hope and direction for the future. Restorative justice has its roots in First Nations communities in Canada, the United States, New Zealand, and Australia. It began as an effort to deal with “wrongdoing” and crime on a more relationship-oriented basis. It is a process aimed at healing and promoting peace rather than deepening harm, conflicts, and societal wounds. Restorative justice is about the capacity of ordinary people to identify and solve their own problems. In short, restorative justice programs have been found to be better and more successful for healing and redirection than their counterparts.

Initially in the United States, restorative justice programming was used as a response to handle minor offenses. Now, it is used in many communities as an approach to address both minor and more significant crimes, disputes, conflicts, and relationships that extend beyond the legal system (schools, the work place, families, and communities.) Restorative justice is about recognizing one’s impact on others, intended or not. The principles and values of restorative justice have much to say about the way we live in community with one another.

Restorative justice is a framework and an approach to wrongdoing or “harm.” It is used to repair relationships and to begin dialogue between individuals, families, and communities in order to address behaviors and actions that have harmed, negatively impacted, and damaged relationships. It is used to open, re-open, and maintain lines of communication, and it is where true healing, respect, and understanding begins.

Although retribution and/or consequences can still be used for wrongdoings, with restorative justice, the focus shifts from:

What rules are broken? Who did it? And, what punishment is deserved? (Criminal justice framework)

To……

What harm was done and to whom? What are the causes? What are the needs of the people harmed? Whose obligations is it to repair the harm? And, what is the appropriate process to involve the people and/or community in an effort to make things right? (Restorative justice framework)

With so much present-day divisiveness, we can ask ourselves, how was caring unlearned? Peace isn’t simply the absence of hostilities; it’s about learning the art of getting along. True peace often requires a change of heart. A restorative framework asks of us to be open to understanding the life, context, experiences, and suffering of one another, and to demonstrate a willingness to see the humanity in others’ situations and experiences. Empathy and compassion are the natural states of humans. Compassion cannot exist without an empathetic orientation and lens.

Restorative justice promotes the values and principles that use inclusive, collaborative approaches for living in community. These approaches validate the experiences and needs of everyone within the community, particularly those who have been marginalized, oppressed, or harmed. Restorative approaches allow us to act and respond in ways that show understanding and promote healing, rather than those that are alienating or coercive.

You can tell a process is restorative if:

• Everyone is heard and everyone has a chance to tell his, her, or their “side.”
• People speak from the heart.
• The communication is not shame or blame-based.
• People’s feelings aren’t dismissed.
• People are honest about harm they have caused and/or received.
• Rules and punishment are not the dominant mindset.
• There’s respect. If another person feels disrespected, it’s each person’s responsibility to adapt their style.
• Things are fair.

• Taking responsibility is valued over the mistake that was made/wrong doing that was done.

There are five essential characteristics of successful restorative practice:

• RELATIONSHIPS: Developing caring connections and finding common ground.
• RESPECT: Listening to others’ opinions and valuing them.
• RESPONSIBILITY: Being accountable for actions taken.
• RESTORATION: Repairing harm that has been caused.
• REINTEGRATION: Ensuring all remain included and involved.

FLYY’s direct application of restorative justice:

For several years, restorative justice was the basis for FLYY’s wilderness expedition curriculum with teens, young adults, families, and within the expedition community itself. Although discontinued, this cutting edge program not only focused on confidence, resilience, and grit, but also critically provided students with a way to resolve conflicts and speak their truths, thus allowing harm to be repaired. We found that restorative justice practices and principles, when applied within an expedition team and/or a family, led to real and lasting healing.