Tag Archives: restorative justice

Transforming Troubled Schools

By Robert C. Koehler

What happened?

Can the world shift on such a simple question? Imagine yourself sitting eye-to-eye with a kid in trouble and that’s the first thing you ask. No lecture, no sarcasm, no judgment, no explosion of lost patience and a cry of “Why did you do that?” Just: What happened?

And then you wait for an answer. When it comes, however haltingly, you press gently and firmly on, still without judgment, just the need to know:

What were you thinking at the time?
What have you thought about since?
What do you think you need to do to make things right?

These are the four basic questions of restorative practices, a movement slowly transforming troubled schools and troubled communities around the globe Continue reading

Building Community, Building Peace

Bob will speak in Los Angeles this Sunday; details below.

By Robert C. Koehler

In our techno-saturated society, we have the casual capacity to capture any unfolding event on film — even an act of shocking violence — and send images of the live action around the globe just by whipping out a cell phone.

Two years ago, Chicago’s Fenger High School had its 15 minutes of horrific fame when the beating death of one of its students, an honor student named Derrion Albert — waiting for a bus after school, caught suddenly in a surge of gang violence, savagely beaten with two-by-fours and railroad ties — was recorded on someone’s cell camera and became an international spectacle.

What we lack, it would seem, is the capacity to do anything about the violence itself.

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The Healing Walls

By Robert C. Koehler

“There’s something about creating beauty that reaches people and that in the end gives us hope that things can change. . . . It shifts the consciousness of a neighborhood.”

Sometimes people really mean what they say.

An extraordinary documentary, “Concrete, Steel and Paint,” takes us on a journey of transformation — and it goes the long way, the honest way, through the shoals of anger and mistrust that separate social opposites. The film is about prisoners in a maximum security facility outside Philadelphia. It’s also about crime victims, women and men damaged — driven, in some cases, to the edge of “why go on living?” — by the murder of a loved one, by sexual assault, by some deep violation.

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Pot Revolution in New England

Marijuana Has Rocked the West Coast, and Now New England Is the Next Frontier for Reform

By Steven Wishnia

The political landscape for pot in the Northeast is changing dramatically, with bright prospects in many states.

New England may be the next frontier for reforming the nation’s marijuana laws.

Maine and Rhode Island are moving toward creating a dispensary system for medical marijuana, and Massachusetts decriminalized marijuana in 2008. In Connecticut and Vermont, incoming governors are expected to be much more sympathetic to similar moves than their predecessors were. New Hampshire’s legislature passed a medical-marijuana bill this year, but its upper house failed to override a veto by Gov. John Lynch.

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Crime and Healing


By Robert C. Koehler

“I have nowhere to talk about this except here in a prison setting,” Peg said. “You are my community.”

The circle grew close, intimate — sacred — as the three women spoke.

There were about 35 of us in all, sitting on hard plastic chairs. Twenty wore green: the inmates. The building was wrapped in razor wire. It was a maximum security prison called Columbia Correctional Institution, in Portage, Wis. Built for 450 prisoners, it houses, two decades after it opened, about 900. The setting was old justice, but something new was happening.

Not all that new, maybe. Restorative Justice — a multifaceted system of criminal justice and conflict resolution that puts healing and truth-telling at its core, not punishment, revenge or the culling out of humanity’s undesirables — has been around and evolving for about 20 years now.  Continue reading

A Hole in the Night

unwind bigBy Robert C. Koehler
Tribune Media Services

It all felt wild and uncontained, like on the playground. I was the outsider kid, wrong jacket, wrong hat. Or maybe I just stepped out of my car at the wrong time. With a whoop they were on me, surrounding me, laughing. What great fun.

Then one of them shoved me and I was off balance, stumbling, and I felt more shoves and they were saying something to me. They wanted my money, I guess. Continue reading

Power with, Power over

Honor student Derrion Albert, 1993-2009

Honor student Derrion Albert, 1993-2009

By Robert C. Koehler

Tribune Media Services

I don’t know if words can transform the world — I know they can’t bring back a murdered child — but I have a few of them to scatter on the grave of Derrion Albert, the Chicago boy whose brutal slaying [caught on video] two weeks ago stunned the city and the nation:

Power with, not power over.

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We Shall Not Be Moved

restorative justice 468x291By Robert C. Koehler
Tribune Media Services

“A fight, a fight . . .”

Oh Lord. From what depths did this story come? This was the power of the peace circle, pulling something out of me beyond any known zone of emotional safety. 

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