Healthier Delray Beach hosted perhaps its most intensive training to date the week of August 1 2016 through August 4, 2016 . Including 86 people and nearly every school in Delray Beach, the Introduction to RJP presentations proved that Delray Beach is committed to change. Other attendees included: The Achievement Centers for Children & Families, the City of Delray Beach, the School District of Palm Beach County Safe Schools, and Families First of Palm Beach County. Presentations were made not only by Restorative Justice Practices (RJP) trainer, Kerri Berkowitz, but also the Center for Child Counseling and Palm Beach County Youth Services Department.
What are Restorative Justice Practices?
Restorative Justice Practices (RJP) are at their core a paradigm shift. RJP focuses on doing things, whether that be discipline or decision making, with someone, not simply to or for them. Having this emphasis on relationships within communities and schools, and between those with authority and without, changes the way groups interact with each other in almost every capacity.
To carry out its function, RJP often use circles. For RJP purposes, a circle means intentionally creating a space that lifts barriers between people and opens the possibility for connection, collaboration, problem solving, and mutual understanding. Circles can be a venue to build relationships, set goals, celebrations, problem solving, or even for academic preparation.
Restorative Justice Practices in schools
Perhaps where Restorative Justice Practices can be used most readily is in schools. The school system is rife with opportunities for restoration among teachers and students and also between students – the classroom or administration office a perfect venue.
The justice aspect of RJP refers to an alternative to punitive actions such as suspension. By focusing on repairing harm and asking students developed questions focused on what feelings lead to the actions and how they think someone may have been harmed, RJP is a way to help students learn and grow from their actions without loosing exorbitant amounts of learning time.
But it’s not just for schools
Much of HDB’s focus, as we’ve discussed in previous blogs, is deepening communities – reforming and strengthening relationships within the community of Delray Beach.
Using RJP circles is a way to strengthen communities by building relationships between its members. By repairing relationships among communities, natural care giving is nurtured. Natural care giving mean that people have an outlet, a person to talk to when times are hard. By providing RJP training to community members, especially the teachers and Achievement Centers staff that attended means that Delray Beach will have more natural support.
Because mental wellness isn’t always about therapy. It’s about support.