What we’ve accomplished:
Schools Our Restorative Justice School Program has introduced several local schools to restorative practices, including the pilot at Long Middle School where in the first two years of the program it contributed to a 27% reduction in suspensions. Throughout our program years at Long Middle (2007-2015) the compliance rate of agreements reached through Restorative Circles held at a rate of over 90%. Under CCS auspices in an alternative school, all classes had Talking Circles in which students, over the course of the semester, began to enforce the guidelines of respecting the Talking Piece and being honest about their statements. In every class, students increased participation in the Talking Circle. We have responded to referrals for the “Restorative Circle” part of our program from these additional schools in the St. Louis Public School District: Ashland Elementary, Buder Elementary Des Peres Big Picture Elementary, Shaw VPA Elementary, Turner Big Picture Middle, Blow Middle and Roosevelt High School.
A Sampling of our Restorative Programming Intergenerational Talking Circles in the Dutchtown South neighborhood of St. Louis. Dutchtown is an area particularly rich in diversity as it houses multiple agencies assisting refugee and immigrant groups resettling within its boundaries. As a response to a hike in violent crime, CCS was invited to hold talking circles specifically to allow youth and law enforcement officers to speak and listen respectfully by offering a forum and topical questions designed to elicit understanding across age variance. Adjudicated youth were offered opportunities to participate in the circles (without being so identified) and CCS recruited and trained other neighborhood youth for co-facilitation of the circles. Talking Circle topics included violence, safety, communication and power and authority.
Impact of Crime on Victims Talking Circles CCS facilitators held talking circles with women who were under supervision of the Drug Court of Franklin County, Missouri for drug-related offenses. The goal of the circles was to support the participants in interacting with the harm questions: who was harmed in their offense, what was the harm, how can the harm be repaired, and who is responsible for repairing it. CCS facilitators were moved with the bravery and empathy with which the participants engaged in the circles. At the end of this series, one participant requested the assistance of CCS in facilitating a dialogue between the participant and one of her victims, to which the victim agreed. In a post-dialogue follow-up, the victim reported significant emotional relief and gratitude for the experience.
Community Education CCS staff, volunteers and board members have regularly offered training in
- Talking circles and circle processes
- Basics of conflict resolution and collaborative decision-making
- Community Mediation
In addition, CCS gratefully welcomes and trains Social Work Interns from a number of graduate Social Work schools in the St. Louis Metropolitation area (Brown School of Social Work, UMSL School of Social Work, and St. Louis University School of Social Work, Lindenwood University School of Social Work, Creighton University School of Social Work). These Interns bring assistance, energy and new learning to our School Restorative Justice Program and CCS's training ensures that the field of Restorative Justice will continue to have trained professionals able to develop and direct restorative programming.