Sunday, December 27, 2015

Zehr (Little Book of RJ)- Chapter 1

"Restorative justice focuses on needs [in a broad sense] more than deserts [though not neglecting its importance]."

Reading Zehr on "what RJ isn't" it became unclear what was left for it to be! He is clearly trying to clarify some false perceptions of a movement that has matured and grown in many directions. That makes sense.

It also makes sense to expand our view of justice in terms of addressing the greater needs of all stakeholders involved. But one can be excused if they feel squeamish about Zehr's statement that "victims should be able to identify their own needs." At a time where the subjective needs of the perceived victim take precedence over facts, we should all be a bit skeptical.

As Zehr highlights, the State is not particularly good at addressing justice in the broader sense he is advocating. Bad things seem to happen when it tries. Yet, I doubt most RJ advocates are ready to surrender the civic sphere entirely. Zehr claims, "Restorative Justice is neither a panacea nor necessarily a replacement for the legal system."

Finally, the metaphor of RJ as a "compass" and not a "map," seems helpful. By compass, he's suggesting that RJ tells us where to go but not necessarily how to get there.

The Little Book of Restorative Justice, by Howard Zehr

Thoughts on Justice

Initial Thoughts on the Idea of Justice 

What do we mean when we talk about justice? We believe in it as a guiding principle. It is central to our ethical system as a society. The assurance of justice and the absolute right to seek it; these are sacred cows. But it's actually hard to say what justice is.

Justice... is it a thing? A state of being? A process? An action?

Action(s): "We will ensure that justice is served."
Process: "May justice be done."
Attribute: "A warrior for justice"
Condition: "Justice for all"

I think of justice as getting what you deserve (just deserts). That's pretty simplistic and sounds mostly punitive- but I do mean it in the positive sense of the word too. I'm also realizing how individualistic that sounds. However, "community justice" sounds scary to me and evokes images of lynchings and vigilante style retribution. But justice doesn't occur in a vacuum.

Sunday, December 20, 2015


This year I will be completing a graduate certificate program in Restorative Justice for Schools through Eastern Mennonite University. My hope is that this course of study will compliment my growth as a 6-12th grade independent schools education leader. While I began teaching primarily focused on content (the emphasis of my M.A.T. portfolio at Johns Hopkins University), I've seen that the best teachers, and certainly the best administrators, are much more than master teachers of content. They are counselors, mentors and yes, disciplinarians.