Inside CDCR Video, Rehabilitation

Restorative Justice Symposium builds community, understanding

Video by Richard Tan

As CDCR moves even more toward a model of restorative justice and rehabilitation, a healing-focused nonprofit is bringing together people from all aspects of the criminal justice community to learn from one another.

For several days, Re:Store Justice hosted a Restorative Justice Symposium at California Medical Facility. Built on restorative justice’s principles of healing and strengthening communities through dialogue and building understanding, the event brought together currently and formerly incarcerated people, CDCR staff, prosecutors, survivors of crime, and community members impacted by crime and incarceration. Sitting in circles, participants shared their experiences and perspectives, learning from one another and building empathy and understanding. The events are held throughout the year at various institutions.

“To move our system beyond one of adversaries, we work with prosecutors, incarcerated people, and survivors of crime to shift the focus of the criminal justice system to one of true public safety,” Re:Store describes the symposia on its website. “We believe that people who have been directly impacted by violence are essential to the creation of effective and meaningful criminal justice reform and violence prevention. The Transformative Justice Symposia encompass put forth restorative justice techniques aimed at healing communities. We recognize that we are all members of ONE community. It is our mission to change our collective response to violence and in turn, build a more equitable, safe, and humane society.”

“To move our system beyond one of adversaries, we work with prosecutors, incarcerated people, and survivors of crime to shift the focus of the criminal justice system to one of true public safety,” Re:Store describes the symposia on its website. “We believe that people who have been directly impacted by violence are essential to the creation of effective and meaningful criminal justice reform and violence prevention. The Transformative Justice Symposia encompass put forth restorative justice techniques aimed at healing communities. We recognize that we are all members of ONE community. It is our mission to change our collective response to violence and in turn, build a more equitable, safe, and humane society.”

The video is also available on YouTube.

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Transcript

Ken Puckett

Wow it’s great to see everybody here. And I want welcome all of you, welcome all of you here on behalf of Re:Store Justice, on behalf of the California Medical Facility and the California District Attorneys Office San Joaquin County DAs.

Philip Melendez

We are an organization founded on the principles of restorative justice.

Puckett

In Re:Store Justice it’s really amazing to see what can happen at these symposium.

Melendez

And I think that’s what’s going to happen today is you’re going to get some proximity to some stuff that you’re not used to seeing. You’re going to change false dichotomies of us versus them. You’re going to have a lot of conversations and really see the humanity in everyone and I hope that you all have an impactful day, have some healing, get some understanding, and just have some great conversations.

Michael DeLongis

Welcome to day one of the Re:Store Justice Symposium. Today is about talking, just talking. And sharing. People having meaningful conversation, speaking honestly and openly and wanting be heard and understood. Today is about people trying to make sense of their lives. People looking back and asking, how did I come to be here. Looking at themselves from the past with today’s eyes and admitting they understand who they were. I’m not happy about things, but I understand them. Now people say I want to share what I know. Let people hear, let people listen.

Puckett

The reality is our society is changing. Our criminal justice system is changing and we need to take a different approach. We found that, you know, young men, especially youthful offenders, they can turn their lives around. They can be rehabilitated with the right mix of supports. And that’s really what restorative justice is all about.

Sherri Adams

We have to start looking at how we can adapt. And we have to start considering that people can change and people can rehabilitate.

Puckett

The beauty of restorative justice with regards to a District Attorney’s office is it not only works and meets the needs of the offenders, but it is also greatly geared toward the needs and the desires and the mental health of the survivors.

Christopher Mann

Sitting in the circles in the symposium shows each and every individual is connected as a community whether on offenders’ side or as a survivor. You see the connections we can make and it’s amazing to be able to see a connection between two people that were on opposite sides of crime.

Adams

And so if the victims are on board with this and it is helping them heal and making them feel like there is good and there can be good that comes out of this, then as DAs and government officials we need to be on board with that. And that will then benefit the criminal justice system as a whole. You men in here that are residents, you are doing amazing work, with the people that you’re working with and the other people that are not in this room. Because you are role models, you are setting the example of what can be done.

Puckett

It’s great to be at a symposium where were bringing together our survivors from our own San Joaquin County and exchanging ideas, exchanging information with the people inside, the men inside who committed crimes.

La Tonya Bate-Stewart

I’ve witnessed men in restorative justice circles show real remorse, take responsibility for their crimes. And I’ve also been able to offer forgiveness and compassion in exchange.

Puckett

They’re being paroled now, because of changes in the law. And we as prosecutors have an interest in supporting them when they’re released. Making sure that they’ve gone through the right programs. Making sure that they accept their responsibility, they’re ready to move forward and contribute to society.

D. Cueva

To put things like this together, it usually doesn’t happen in a lot of prisons, but here we want it to happen. We want people to come in, we want people to interact with our inmates because today’s inmate is tomorrow’s neighbor. And that’s what we firmly believe

Rebecca Weiker

I’m hoping that these last two days were an opportunity for everybody to see that restorative justice and restorative practices give us the opportunity to respond to all the needs that people have after harm happens.

Mann

There’s a lot that we’ve learned about each other. The harms, the continuity between crime and victimization.

Kibbe Day

I didn’t know how to explain to others unless they were here what I had experienced. And that should be a challenge. This is hard. The work that is happening here is hard. Hard doesn’t mean impossible.

Puckett

And I have not found a program, yet, better and I think more effective, than restorative transformative justice.

Cueva

One thing I’d like to see is us starting to get the other guys, who need this type of program, and things like this are huge. I talked to a lot of the inmates after the first one and they say, when is it coming back? When can we do this again? Thank you to the inmates for participating, thank you to the staff, thank you to the volunteers that are volunteering their time to come in and spending your time and hopefully it is impactful, as impactful it is for these inmates and the staff. So once again, thank you and I really do appreciate you guys coming out.