Responsibility and Repair

Imagine a community where justice is a choice we make. A place where offenders make amends in a council that includes the victim, their neighbors and community members. A system where the goals are taking responsibility and repairing harm, instead of punishment and retribution. This is restorative justice.

With roots that go back to early tribal councils in Africa and Native American and New Zealand’s Maori cultures, restorative justice is a simple concept: when an offender commits a crime or school violation, he or she creates an obligation to the victim and the community to restore the broken relationships and heal the harms. In Sonoma County, Restorative Resources, a community based nonprofit, has pioneered this movement since 2001, facilitating hundreds of cases, working with the Sonoma County Probation Department, schools, law enforcement and families.

You may remember the “Better Discipline” (Jan. 22, 2014) cover story in the Bohemian. Leilani Clark detailed how restorative resources and Santa Rosa city schools created “a shift that could put Santa Rosa on the map for educational innovation.”

Now we want you to meet victims, offenders, parents, students, teachers, principals, politicians, police officers and restorative justice professionals. Over the past two years, we’ve been filming a documentary that goes behind the scenes, and through candid interviews, tells the story of how Sonoma County became one of the foremost hubs for restorative justice in the country.

The film, Restorative Justice: Changing Hearts and Minds, will be part of an upcoming program describing how restorative justice is being implemented throughout Sonoma County. Following the 30-minute film, there will be a panel of local experts, including Socorro Shiels, superintendent of Santa Rosa City Schools; Judge Arnold Rosenfield; Karym Sanchez from Restorative Resources and the North Bay Organizing Project; and myself.

This program, hosted by the Social Action Committee of Congregation Shomrei Torah, takes place Saturday, Feb. 21, at 7pm at Congregation Shomrei Torah, 2600 Bennett Valley Road.

Susan Kinder is the executive director of Restorative Resources.

Open Mic is a weekly feature in the ‘Bohemian.’ We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write [email protected].