What is a Restorative Dialogue?
A Restorative Dialogue, also referred to as Restorative Mediation, is a restorative process used to promote accountability, understanding, and healing, when harm has been done.
Restorative Dialogue brings together a clear victim and offender to have a facilitated conversation about the incident of harm. Prior to having the Dialogue, a facilitator meets individually with the victim and offender to hear their stories and to explain the process and what to expect. The facilitator puts special care into making sure that the victim is safe throughout the process and ensuring that this is a voluntary process for both parties.
At the Restorative Dialogue, the victim’s family and/or supports wait in one space, while the offender’s family and/or supports wait in a separate space. The victim and offender meet in a room with the facilitator who asks guides the dialogue. The dialogue allows for the victim to ask questions of the offender and for the offender to answer these questions and share their experience.
From the dialogue comes an agreement, which includes action items for the offender to do in the community to promote accountability and to help repair the harm that was caused.
When is it best to use Restorative Dialogue?
It is best to use a Restorative Dialogue when there is a clear victim and offender and preferably when the victim has specifically requested one.
It is also appropriate when those most impacted by an incident of harm are the victim and the offender. Dialogues can be used in both cases of lower and higher levels of harm done. Careful pre-dialogue efforts on part of the facilitator have to be done to ensure safety and to prevent re-traumatizing the victim in this process.
What is a Restorative Circle?
A Restorative Circle is a restorative process that brings together people who have been impacted by an incident of harm to promote accountability, understanding, and healing. Circles include a victim and an offender, any impacted family and supporters for the victim and offender, and community members.
A Restorative Circle is held by trained circle keepers who first meet individually with those impacted by the harm to explain the circle process and to hear the story of each participant.
At the Restorative Circle, the circle keepers begin with introductions and a ceremony activity to connect everyone, then they invite the members of the circle to set guidelines for their time together. After guidelines have been created, the circle keepers ask participants questions to learn about what happened, who was impacted and how, and what all of the participants need to do to make things right. Participants in the circle are each offered their own time to speak, using a talking piece.
The Circle culminates in an agreement which includes action items for the participants to do to repair the harm. Typically, most of these action items are to be done by the person who did the harm to promote accountability and community integration. The circle process can take up to 3 hours.
When is it best to use Restorative Circles?
It is best to use Restorative Circles when there has been a higher degree of harm and when multiple people have been impacted and wish to participate in a restorative process. A Restorative Circle may be appropriate in instances when the offender’s referral source (corrections officer or court) wishes to have the offender complete an agreement to help repair the harm that has been done.
What is a Restorative Conference?
Restorative Conferencing is a formal restorative process that aims to bring together people who have been impacted by a harm. These people usually include a victim, an offender, the victim’s parent (if under age 18), the offender’s parent (if under age 18), victim supporter, offender supporter, community member(s) who have been impacted, the facilitators of the conference, and possibly a mentor for the offender.
Prior to the conference, the co-facilitators meet with everyone who was involved in the incident to understand how they were impacted and to fully explain the conferencing process and what people have to gain by participating. From there, the conference is scheduled at a time and place that is acceptable to everyone. The conference itself usually takes up to 3 hours, and involves the facilitators asking:
What were you thinking at the time?
What have you thought about since?
Who do you think has been affected by the incident?
What do you think needs to happen to repair the harm that has been caused?
After participants have answered these questions, the group works together to create an agreement which will include action items for the offender to complete which are aimed to: repair the harm, utilize the offender’s strengths and skills, and increase their connection to community. The group may come back together to re-visit the agreement and offer support to the offender so that the action items can be completed.
When is it best to use Restorative Conferencing?
It is best to use Restorative Conferencing when the incident of harm is at a higher level and has impacted multiple people and when those people are willing to participate in a restorative process.
Restorative Conferences may be appropriate in instances when the offender’s referral source (corrections officer or court) wishes to have the offender complete an agreement to help repair the harm that has been done.