Restorative Justice

This section undergoes frequent updates

Northern Virginia Mediation Service. At the core of my restorative justice (RJ) experience is my 12 years as co-coordinator of a very successful RJ program using the non-profit Northern Virginia Mediation Service (NVMS) platform. That RJ program, designed for first time juvenile offenders was designed by a small group group commissioned by NVMS.

As co-coordinator of the NVMS RJ Program, from the beginning I trained and mentored RJ facilitators, facilitated scores of referred RJ cases, and handled a wide variety of outreach tasks for diverse audiences including preparation of briefing materials, articles for publication, program forms, and presentations at myriad professional conferences.

Fairfax County Public Schools. Although first designed for first-time juvenile criminal law offenders, the NVMS RJ program was first applied for school discipline cases referred by the Fairfax County Public Schools. Intended as an alternative to disciplinary actions such as suspension, the FCPS RJ program has a special emphasis on avoiding suspension of non-white students, a trend common to many school districts in the nation.

The FCPS is one of the nation’s largest school districts with over 200 schools and over 180,000 students. Although most of the RJ cases NVMS handled involved one or two parties (e.g., class insubordination, student fighting) some of the referred cases involved several juveniles (e.g., exaggerated class misbehavior) which often involved large groups and pairs of facilitators. In addition, the NVMS RJ cases, while initiated to address past behavior (e.g., a student fight), the agreements struck in the NVMS RJ process routinely included strategies for avoiding future misbehavior.

NVMS RJ facilitators handled scores of school-referred cases for about 7 years until the FCPS elected to hire a nationally known RJ expert who supervised a team of FCPS employees, while still using experienced NVMS facilitators for special cases and training.

Fairfax County Police. FCPS’s successful school-based RJ program eventually prompted the Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) to explore its own RJ program for first-time juvenile offenders. After a careful pilot program FCPD adopted in 2018 its own RJ program, the Alternative Accountability Program (AAP). Juveniles referred by a police officer are first processed by the Fairfax County’s Intake division; if the juvenile elected to participate in RJ and completed the process, the Intake division terminates the case without a petition ever being filed, making it unnecessary for the juvenile’s family to undertake time-consuming and costly efforts to expunge the juvenile’s criminal record.

Loudoun County Public Schools. NVMS’ FCPS success prompted a large neighboring county, Loudoun County, to craft its own RJ program, drawing heavily on the FCPS model and program documentation. At the invitation of Loudoun County I undertook several rounds of training in 2015 for a very large group of facilitator candidates, then enlisted to offer mentoring and supervision of the newly trained facilitators for Loudoun County’s first year of school-based RJ.

RJ Beyond School or Police Referrals. Beyond RJ’s application to school or police referrals, NVMS was also enlisted to apply RJ principles to resolve staff management issues at the historic, black community Gum Springs Community Center. This referral addressed a wide variety of facility uses at the Center and proved to be a good application of basic RJ processes and gave the entire staff venture an opportunity register their views. The success led to the non-profit, local NVMS being designated as the managing hub of a multi-agency committee collaborating on use of RJ to approach disputes in Fairfax County but not limited to school and police referrals (e.g., recreation center matters).

Court Referrals for Sentencing. Although RJ is heavily used as a non-adversarial alternative to court adjudication, it is not so limited. For example, at the request of an RJ colleague in West Virginia, in 2017 I handled a victim-offender dialogue prompted by an offender being convicted and whose sentence included (beyond restitution and a requirement to take alcohol abuse training) the requirement that she participate in a victim-offender, which proved to be very successful leading to an agreement filed with the sentencing judge and reflecting a profound exchange among the parties and specific steps the parties would take to arrive at reconciliation between themselves.

Arlington County. In another county adjoining Fairfax County, Arlington County has undertaken development of its Commonwealth Attorney-supported “RJ Arlington” RJ program. Still in its startup phase, without a team of facilitators or a comprehensive set of forms and support materials, I co-facilitated the program’s demonstration first case in September 2020.

Prison Ministry. In April 2013 I participated as an RJ-oriented keynote speaker in “Re-Entry: Beyond the Bars and Barriers,” a 3-day conference supporting successful re-entry for citizens returning to their communities from incarceration.

In May 2015, I visited the chaplain at the Petersburg federal prison in Hopewell, VA, spending a day meeting inmates and observing existing mentoring programs for the purpose of exploring how RJ programming might facilitate prisoner reentry.

In August 2015, I participated in a panel augmenting the showing of “Unlikely Friends,” a forgiveness-related film shown to the inmate community at the Petersburg federal prison in Hopewell, VA.

In February 2016, I delivered an RJ-oriented keynote address for the Episcopal Diocese of Louisville Kentucky’s prisoner re-entry conference.

RJ Program Consulting
Separate from facilitating individual RJ cases I am available for RJ program consulting. Drawing on over a decade as co-coordinator of the successful NVMS RJ program, which involved extensive research on and interaction with other RJ programs, I can offer concrete advice on myriad RJ program issues:
– Overall program design, e.g., school discipline and/or crime-directed?, juvenile or adult offender-oriented?
– Program description materials for community at large, potential participants, local or national conferences
– Best practices
– Basic process forms: agreement to participate, final agreement, community service arrangements, etc.
– Facilitator training and mentoring
– Recordkeeping and confidentiality
– Team supervision

Forgiveness
My mediation and restorative justice (and mediation) experience led me to better appreciate the critical role of forgiveness issues which underscores the importance of a facilitator’s (or mediator’s) demonstrating respect for self-determination by the parties involved in resolving a dispute.

In a nutshell, forgiveness issues arise in many cases, but pose special challenges for RJ facilitators because the term forgiveness itself is value laden, involves many terms that are often deemed synonyms for or are associated with forgiveness. The term has for many persons religious connotations and, in a particular case, the term may have radically different meanings for offenders and victims which, unless recognized, may thwart resolution of a particular case.

Given the significance of forgiveness issues, I have undertaken a careful examination of the issue involving: research of the extensive RJ literature on forgiveness; my conference presentations for mediators and RJ facilitators on managing forgiveness issues; and compilation of of an extensive library of forgiveness materials by leading RJ practitioners and other dispute resolution professionals. Forgiveness materials that I have prepared and presented to various audiences, inclusive of an annotated bibliography, are free upon request.

  • DEALWORK EVENTS


    2020

    As guest speaker offered for the third time  “Introduction to Restorative Justice” presentation for George Mason University graduate class “Conflict Analysis and Resolution for Prevention, Reconstruction, and Stabilization Contexts”.
    October 2020

    Served as joint facilitator in first case handled by Arlington County, Virginia’s progressive “RJ Arlington” restorative justice program.

    September 2020

    Delivered 90-minute Zoom webinar for Kentucky Bar Association, “Introduction to Restorative Justice,” for 80-participant group of lawyers and mediators; materials include a recently revised 14-page “Restorative Justice Primer,” 2-page outline, and Power Point slides, all of which are available upon request.
    September 2020

    Delivered most updated version of “Introduction to Restorative Justice” presentation for George Washington University law students, a presentation delivered every Spring since 2012.
    April 2020

    Began remote mediation of small  claims cases in Washington, DC.
    March 2020

    2019
    Facilitated myriad small claims and truancy cases for District of Columbia Superior Court Multi-Door Dispute Resolution Division.

    Delivered practice-oriented presentation at Virginia Mediation Network Fall conference, “Managing Forgiveness Issues in Mediation: Respecting Self-Determination.”
    September 2019