Letter to the Editor: Restorative Justice Coalition is Hiring / What is Restorative Justice?

Submitted on 5 February 2020

Letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Quest or the Editorial Board.

CW: Mention of sexual harm.

The Restorative Justice Coalition is hiring five paid positions for next year. The applications will open next Sunday in SB Info. Additionally, they have meetings every other Monday in the Pride Center of the GCC basement and everyone is encouraged to join!

Their mission statement reads, “The Restorative Justice Coalition is a student-led organization seeking to transform the power dynamics perpetuated by traditional justice processes at Reed. Through the creation of safe spaces for intentional dialogue, accountability, and healing, we are working to build and sustain a community where everyone feels they have a voice.”  Their policy can be found on the Reed College Restorative Justice webpage.

The focus of Restorative Justice (RJ) is not to be the method for every conflict and process of harm, but to introduce another option focused on helping people address for themselves, through communication, the harm they either caused or experienced. RJ is not interested in inflicting the same amount of harm on the party that caused the suffering and ‘calling it even,’ but creating a space where both parties can understand and voice what they need to happen as a result of the situation in order to feel safe and supported. RJ is not just for harm cases, but is also focused on hosting circles to build trust in response to events that have impacted the community (and Residence Life is very interested in this aspect).

Restorative Justice is centered on helping those in a conflict understand both what everyone wants from the situation or what kind of action they need from other people in order to feel understood and supported, and provides strategies to best address this need. This is done through communication between both parties and a facilitator on the committee or through community building circles. RJ itself is a conglomeration of practices and approaches to justice, most of which originated in indigenous traditions. RJ applies to a wide variety of conflicts. It was originally founded to provide an alternative approach to sexual harm cases. Addressing sexual harm cases, however, is not what the coalition is currently working on, though there is possibility for this in the future. The coalition is currently working on building a sense of trust and community through community circles, such as the one they lead during Paideia 2020 on cancel culture.  An example of Restorative Justice in action can be found by searching “Restorative Welcome and Re-entry Circle” on Youtube. I also encourage everyone to attend a meeting, especially those interested in RJ and people with further questions on the subject. I had never heard of Restorative Justice before, and after attending one meeting to write this article it is definitely an addition to the justice system that I believe is important both in and outside of Reed. The coalition meeting time information is stated above.

If anyone has suggestions about topics for community circles, please email the coalition at rjcoalition@reed.edu.

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