A Note From the Executive Director
It is an exciting and expansive time to take over as the Executive Director of NARJ. I would like to take a moment to join everyone who has worked with Laurel Abdelnour over the last several years in thanking her for her service to this organization.
As I assume this role, we have some incredible initiatives happening and I hope that you enjoy reading a little bit about them in this newsletter.
I have been impacted deeply by the work of Restorative Justice. Seeing the lives of those touched firsthand is a remarkable experience. The people we have worked with are moved in ways that bring dramatic reclamation to broken lives. Being one of those lives leaves me with no greater hope than to see this opportunity brought to more people and further places.
It is with great enthusiasm that I thank you and appreciate you for your interest in this paradigm shifting movement where we have the ability to do Restorative Justice.
NARJ’s Response to COVID-19
As with many organizations, NARJ’s work normally happens face-to-face and in-person. Before the pandemic, we held restorative circles in the Camp Verde Jail, community circles with youth and their families and taught teachers about using restorative practices in schools. The social distancing required by COVID-19 has put a temporary end to our work done in this way. However, we are taking advantage of whatever resources available to continue our work in other ways.
We have applied for two grants that offer funds that help non-profits respond to COVID-19. With these funds, we expect to purchase technology and software to share with our beneficiaries, their families and our volunteers. With these technologies we will be able to better serve the families we work with. Technology will also allow us to track and follow our growing number of beneficiaries to create meaningful statistics that demonstrates the effectiveness of the work we do.
Learning to Conduct Online Circles
Representatives from NARJ have joined over 150 other restorative practitioners from all over the world in learning how to use online technology to conduct restorative circles. In the series, conducted by Restorative Justice on the Rise, a Colorado non-profit, our volunteers are learning to replace the atmosphere of high empathy and deep engagement which characterizes our in-person work to an online environment. They have found that it is not only possible but, it can be surprisingly easier to develop deep connections online than it is in-person. Our facilitators are expected to begin using this new technology with first offender youths by early June. We expect this capability to be used in the future, allowing us to expand our work even across long distances.
Letters from our Inmate Beneficiaries
The work we have conducted inside Yavapai County Jail in Camp Verde has spawned some significant changes within the jail and within inmates themselves. Here are excerpts from letters we have received from inmates:
“I thank God every day for the opportunity to be a part of Restorative Justice. I have learned to work through my pain and demons that I have fought for so long. I can help and comfort others in ways I never could before.”
“NARJ has shown me and others, we can find healing in our wounds.”
“To listen and to let listen is just one of the powerful tools I learned from you guys.”
“ I apply the Restorative Practices to my life daily now and can’t wait to get my freedom back to be a productive, successful and positive force to the world and especially my community.”
Sedona International Film Festival Responds to NARJ’s “No Shame No Blame”
The response to NARJ’s Short Documentary Video about Restorative Justice practices conducted by trained facilitators in the Camp Verde Jail has been incredible. The video was shown at this year’s Sedona International Film Festival, where we were encouraged by filmgoers and filmmakers alike to make a full-length documentary on the same topic.The video describes the work we have done hosting restorative circles there, and the overwhelmingly positive response we’ve received from our partners at the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office and the jail's inmates. We have received $23,065 in donations to help make that film a reality and the short film has been viewed more than four thousand times in the last few days. Visit narj.orgso you can see the video for yourself.
Please consider making a donation to help us continue our work, and to make the full length documentary a reality.Donate Here or at NARJ.org
Mail Donations to:
PO Box 4851
Sedona, AZ 86340
In the News
Restorative Justice in the Time of Covid-19
As we come to recognize the new “normal” is likely to be a departure from our comfort zone, we are ramping up to meet the Restorative Justice needs in our community. Leading circles in an online format, which is new for many, can be asking a lot of our facilitators. Even so, the International Institute for Restorative Practice (IIRP) recently expressed the importance of engaging others, communicating clearly and managing stress, all within this online format. We understand and see that the online world is in need of the Restorative Justice Practices we can teach.
The link below provides some great pointers and thought provoking points for conducting online circles in Restorative Justice.
Restorative Justice International (RJI) Offers a Statement on COVID-19’s Impact on Prisons
Restorative Justice International (RJI) has taken an active role to advocate for the rights of inmates and prison staff in the U.S. and throughout global justice systems to not be overlooked in the face of this pandemic. Specifically, the Global Advisory Council (GAC) addressed the impact of shutdowns, eliminating prison visits and closing down key in-prison Restorative Justice programs.
Lisa Rea, President of RJI urges systems to “…respond to crime while assuring that the needs of crime victims aren’t ignored. Restorative Justice is needed now more than ever.”
RJI expressed that current estimates indicate 40% of inmates in the United States alone are in prison for non-violent offenses. The pandemic has actually encouraged authorities to re-examine how offenders are sentenced. This provides a great opportunity to limit valuable prison resources and expand the use of Restorative Justice practices that stress offender accountability following a crime that supports crime victims without taxing the correction systems during this difficult time.
Visit our Restorative Justice Blog to read more about RJ in Schools and in the news. Visit NARJ.org for more information and to help us in our mission.