Conference provides ‘tools to help’

YELLOW SPRINGS — At the Second Restorative Justice Conference held June 1-2 in Yellow Springs, attendees learned how this community-building, humane approach can promote healing from sexual and family violence.

Participants came from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, California, Kentucky, Michigan as well as many parts of Ohio. On June 1, conference organizers Jalyn Roe and Jennifer Berman welcomed a circle of 70 people. Five expert speakers gave introductory presentations based on their considerable collective experience: Duke Fisher of Skidmore College, Dr. Joan Pennell of North Carolina State University, Kaaren M. Williamsen of the University of Michigan, Chief Richard Biehl of the Dayton Police Department and Raymond TeKorako Ruka, Maori elder and priest of Waitaha, who resides in Yellow Springs.

A highlight was the presentation of a proclamation by Yellow Springs Mayor Pam Conine, declaring June 1-3 “Restorative Justice Weekend” in Yellow Springs.

In the June 2 all-day workshop, 45 attendees focused on the difficult topic of “Healing Harms in Sexual and Family Violence.” Leaders Fisher, Pennell and Williamsen coached small and large group exercises demonstrating how to facilitate restorative-justice activities such as convening a circle, explaining guiding principles, asking helpful questions, and addressing community concerns.

“This is just an introduction,” Fisher said. “To become a facilitator, you need further work and guided experience.”

Williamsen and Pennell added that Restorative Justice is not appropriate in every situation. Part of a facilitator’s skill is to assess when it is appropriate.