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Posts Tagged ‘restorative justice’

1570912830780Photo: Chris McKeen/Stuff
The woman above, who participates in a New Zealand prison’s ballet class, says the dancing made her happy. She says she plans to take some of her new skills into her future on the outside.

In New Zealand, officials in a women’s prison have found that ballet may not only provide structure and discipline to people who need help with self-control: it may also provide happiness.

Caroline Williams writes at Stuff, “Barbed wire fences, concrete cells and a focus on hard punishment are a thing of the past at the Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility. Instead, it’s open spaces and restorative rehabilitation in the form of classical music and contemporary ballet.

“Since 2017, inmates at men’s and women’s prisons in Wellington and Christchurch have enjoyed a more refined approach to restorative justice, thanks to a Royal New Zealand Ballet [RNZB] initiative to make the art form more accessible.

“Before prison, some of the women had had to ‘be staunch’ their whole lives, RNZB corporate development manager Diane Field said. The ballet program had allowed them to feel free and feminine.

“[In October], the first group of women to take the course in Auckland graduated in front of an audience of RNZB representatives and prison staff, with choreography including repertoire from past RNZB productions Megalopolis, Cacti, Artemis Rising and Black Swan, White Swan.

“The seven women beamed with pride as they completed the performances with few mistakes — a pretty good effort for only 10 and a half hours of practice spread over eight weeks, with a week lost in the middle due to a measles scare. …

“One said the certificate given to her at a graduation ceremony made her feel like she’d accomplished something. … Another said the classes had shaped her into ‘a totally different person’ after never having engaged in sport or dance before her conviction.

“While the dancing ‘made her happy,’ she accepted it was part of her punishment and would take something from the experience into her future. She hoped to pursue a career in fitness upon her release from the facility. … ‘Little things from outsiders make a big difference for us.’

“All the inmates interviewed by Stuff said they would like to take dance classes again and would encourage other inmates to have a go.

“RNZB senior dance educator Pagan Dorgan taught prison programmes in Wellington and Christchurch, but said the women in Auckland had a particular flair for movement.

‘Every week you can just see them become more confident. With confidence comes the drive to want to get better. They’re very engaged and very present.’

“Dorgan, who usually taught dance in schools, … adjusted her teaching style to accommodate for the inmates, including allowances for chatter and freedom for the women to work in their own groups. But she insisted she hadn’t made it easy for the women.

” ‘The more you see them develop, the more you can push.’

“Prison director Steve Park said … [it’s a credit] to the women to put their name forward for the programme.”

I had thought of “restorative justice” as an effort on the part of a wrongdoer to “restore” what they had taken from someone else in committing a crime. But of course, it’s also about restoring criminals to their better selves. Good to know that ballet can help.

More at Stuff, here.

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metro-arts-student

Photo: Metro Arts
This
student is engaged in a restorative justice program that uses the arts to reach young offenders. Cecilia Olusola Tribble, Community Arts Coordinator of the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, says, “We have been able to work and watch miracles happen every day.”

My friend Diana was the first to explain to me the concept of restorative justice, and I wrote about it here. The idea is to bring a young perpetrator and his or her victim together, if the victim is willing, to learn about the effects of the crime and make restitution. When the process works, the young person turns aside from wrongdoing and keeps a clean record. Today I have a story about how the arts can be part of a restorative justice outreach to youth who are already incarcerated.

Cecilia Olusola Tribble writes at ArtsBlog, “The purpose of the Restorative Justice + the Arts program is to enable artists and arts organizations to provide dynamic program opportunities for youth and families who have interacted with the criminal justice system. Our aim is to equip teaching artists with the tools they need to bolster their practice in ways that lead youth toward productivity, resiliency, and well-being.

“In 2016, photographer and musician Nduka Onwuzurigbo heard about the transformation happening in the juvenile justice system and wanted to create a project with the youth in the detention center.

“Since her election in 2014, Judge Sheila Calloway has been restructuring the juvenile justice system in Metro Nashville/Davidson County to include resources to divert children and families in trouble, providing them creative paths toward a better, brighter, and more productive future. …

“[She] mobilized her team to make sure the children in the detention center were able to participate in the photography project. As that singular project was seeing success with the youth who were incarcerated and had a positive community response, Metro Arts in Nashville approached the judge about establishing an ongoing partnership. Since then, Metro Arts and the Juvenile Court in collaboration with the Oasis Center have been able to build the Restorative Justice + Arts program.

“It costs roughly $88,000 to incarcerate one youth for a year in Nashville. For the same amount of money, we have been able to pitch, build, and pilot the Restorative Justice + Arts program. …

“To start the program, Metro Arts held focus groups with our artist community, grantees, arts educators, and other stakeholders. … Next, Metro Arts spent time in the various departments in Juvenile Court. The focus in the court is in the process of shifting from solely emphasizing penalty to giving children and parents the tools to restore healthy relationships and communities. Judge Calloway has explained Restorative Justice in the following way:

‘Restorative Justice moves the conversation from “Who did the crime & what do they deserve?” to “Who has been harmed?”, “What are their needs?” [and] “Whose obligation is it to fix their harm?” ‘ …

“In FY 2018, the artists have been able to serve 424 youth who have been incarcerated, had other involvement with the court, or who are deemed at-risk due to poverty, school attendance, neighborhood crime, poor school performance, or living in an area where fresh food is scarce. …

“It is because of the partnership between multiple government agencies, youth-centered organizations, arts organizations, and artists that we have been able to work and watch miracles happen every day. We have witnessed youth leaving the detention center and seeking out their yoga and dance teacher. … We have watched the miracle where former gang members admit to shooting at each other, but theater and painting classes have bonded them together as brothers with arms entangled. Our hearts are full at experiencing young folks arguing with the characters of an August Wilson play to make a better choice. …

“This spark came from one artist who asked the question and made the difference.” One and one and 50 make a million. More here.

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At the NY Times, Sindya N. Bhanoo notes some cool research on young children’s sense of fairness.

“Children as young as age 3 will intervene on behalf of a victim, reacting as if victimized themselves, scientists have found.

“With toys, cookies and puppets, Keith Jensen, a psychologist at the University of Manchester in England, and his colleagues [Katrin Riedl, Josep Call, and Michael Tomasello] tried to judge how much concern 3- and 5-year-olds had for others, and whether they had a sense of so-called restorative justice.

“In one experiment, when one puppet took toys or cookies from another puppet, children responded by pulling a string that locked the objects in an inaccessible cave. When puppets took objects directly from the children themselves, they responded in the same way.

“ ‘The children treated these two violations equally,’ said Dr. Jensen, a co-author of the study published in the journal Current Biology.

“In another experiment, when an object was lost or stolen, children tried to right the wrong by returning the object to the puppet it belonged to.

“ ‘Their sense of justice is victim-focused rather than perpetrator focused,’ Dr. Jensen said.” More at the NY Times, here.

The abstract for “Restorative Justice in Children” is posted at Cell.com.

Photo: Keith Jensen
Two puppets used in a study that aimed to learn how much concern young children have for others. 

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Solving a problem by definition means making something better. But for many years, disciplinary action in schools made things worse. Now more communities are testing the potential of “restorative justice,” an approach focused on helping a perpetrator change for the better.

It was at a neighborhood picnic that I first heard from a couple neighbors that they were restorative-justice volunteers.

They told me that if a student spray paints someone’s garage, let’s say, the police get called in, and the kid may end up with a record.

Under restorative justice, however, police, perpetrator, victim, school personnel, and community volunteers hear the case and agree on suitable compensation — in this case, it might be repainting the garage. The youth sees face to face how the victim feels. Change is possible with the community involved.

Patricia Leigh Brown writes at the NY Times about a restorative justice program in Oakland, California, where a high school’s “zero tolerance” policies had ridden roughshod over underlying causes, leading to escalation of problems.

She writes about youth adviser Eric Butler, whose “mission is to help defuse grenades of conflict at Ralph J. Bunche High School, the end of the line for students with a history of getting into trouble. He is the school’s coordinator for restorative justice, a program increasingly offered in schools seeking an alternative to ‘zero tolerance’ policies like suspension and expulsion.

“The approach … encourages young people to come up with meaningful reparations for their wrongdoing while challenging them to develop empathy for one another through ‘talking circles’ led by facilitators like Mr. Butler.” More.

In one talking circle, participants discovered that a girl in trouble for uncontrolled aggression had just lost a brother to gun violence. She had not told anyone or sought support. She began to learn other ways to deal with her anger.

Photo: Jim Wilson/The New York Times
Mr. Butler with a student at Ralph J. Bunche High School in Oakland.

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