The season of giving and appreciation

2017 RJP Holiday Newsletter!
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This Season's Highlights

What have we been up to:
• Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon
• Staff Retreat
• South County Reception
• MC Gives
• CSUMB CHHS Major, Alicia Lopez Zarate
• MPC's Restorative Justice Club
• Babies Announcement
• Victim Impact Update
• Victim Offender Mediation Success Story
2017 Annual Appreciation Luncheon!
Our Annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon was a great success! Thank you to Scales Restaurant for hosting our amazing group of mediators, victim impact speakers, board members, staff, restorative justice supporters, and honorees. The team acknowledged Probation Officer, Pascuala Ríos, for her many years of service as Restorative Justice Coordinator in Monterey County. 
RJP's Staff Retreat
Thank you, staff, for your dedication to justice that heals and for bringing your many assets to the table every day! It was a historic day for the organization--as it continues to grow to better serve our county. 

Those who attended the retreat are as followed:
Jennie Burciaga, Executive Director
Tom Lee, Victim Impact Program Coordinator
Peggy Schmidt, President, Board of Directors
Veronica Miramontes, Victim Offender Reconciliation Program Coordinator
Cari-Esta Albert, RJ in the Schools Case Manager
Arleen De La Peña, RJ in the Schools Case Manager
Elaine Levario, Administrative Assistant 
Alicia Lopez Zarate, CSUMB Intern
Douglas Muller, RJ in the Schools Case Manager
Allen Manalili, Interim VORP Case Manager
Tobi Marcus, Facilitator
South County Reception
During the reception, we recapped the progress to date in South County, talked possible expansion and received vital feedback from local community stakeholders. South County believes in the work of restorative justice, and we view you all as the experts in the work. 
Pictured left to right: Warden William Muniz, VORP Coordinator Veronica Miramontes, Volunteer Mediators Rich Masters and Elizabeth Lopez and Commander Joseph Bañuelos

Over the past year, thanks to the support of the MC Gives campaign donors, Restorative Justice Partners, Inc. (RJP, Inc.)  held community based circles to examine conflict, issues of diversity, post-election processing, and how the organization might expand services over time to better meet the growing needs of Monterey County residents. The organization partnered with the Nonprofit Alliance for Monterey County's Diversity and Social Equity Committee, RJ in the Schools constituents from three districts in the County, and the Community Restorative Justice Commission in intentional circle processes to share and gather information to propel the work forward. On a side note, the RJP, Inc. staff now meets in a circle format once per quarter for a regular staff meeting. Circles can be used anywhere! Just ask us how! 
Parent Perspective
by RJP Intern, Alicia Lopez Zarate
Collaborative Health & Human Services Major 
Many children in Monterey County are exhibiting negative behaviors at school that impact their education and social success.  In order to change these negative behaviors that can lead them into the criminal path, a curriculum was developed to serve parents. Restorative Justice: A parent’s Learning Perspective is a curriculum development project of Restorative Justice Partners, Inc. The curriculum was designed to help English and Spanish speaking parents guide their children, through the use of restorative discipline methods. In the long run, this will eventually help to reduce negative behaviors among children in Monterey County, California. With the success of this project, Restorative Justice Partners, Inc. will be able to serve the bilingual community of Monterey County. Through the training curriculum, parents will have a broader knowledge of restorative justice principles, as well the positive outcomes that could result from utilizing restorative justice discipline methods at home with their children. The next step is to begin serving parents in the area utilizing the training curriculum and begin making a greater change in the community. One recommendation presented to the agency is to continue updating the curriculum annually in order to have relevant and updated information to provide for parents in the future years to come.
Monterey Peninsula College - Restorative Justice Club
Monterey Peninsula has a new club on campus. Restorative Justice (RJ) Club brings students together to learn more about rj tools and practices. Pictured above is Club President, Alvarez (Meechie) Pierce and Drayton Doyle. Meechie and Drayton are also Victim Offender Reconciliation Program volunteer mediators for us at RJP, Inc. With the support of our Board Member and MPC Counselor Stan Armstead, we are excited to see the new approach of rj on MPC's campus.  The RJ club has already hosted a Chicken Lunch Fundraiser and also donated lunches to the homeless. 
Big congratulations
for two of RJP's staff members. RJ in the Schools Case Manager, Arleen De la Peña (pictured in pink) and Victim Offender Reconciliation Program Coordinator, Veronica Miramontes (pictured in blue) are excited to welcome new babies into the world! We can not wait to meet baby boy, Emiliano David, and baby girl, Mila Cristina!
Victim Impact Program - Medical Resident directs documentary 
Dr. Rohit Chetty (otherwise known as Bobby) is making a documentary about the Restorative Justice Partner's (RJP) Victim Impact Program (VIP).  Expected to be released in 2018, the film will feature many of the volunteers, staff, law enforcement personnel, and community experts who work to make VIP a success.  VIP brings survivors of crime to address audiences of young people in confinement in Monterey County Probation facilities such as Juvenile Hall or the Youth Center. We are grateful to Ms. Sally Tirado, the co-director of Community Medicine at Natividad Hospital in Salinas, for sending the good doctor our way. While we are fond of saying that RJ is the justice that heals, Bobby is finding out that RJ is also the medicine that restores body and soul.  

As a resident, he sees two kinds of patients who consistently need more help that traditional medicine can offer.  First, there are many inmates who arrive for treatment dressed in orange jumpsuits. Bobby recognizes their needs for recovery and redemption that the traditional tools of medicine simply can’t address.  Then, there are community members who are victims of trauma, often inflicted by crime and violence.  Their tendency is to retreat to isolation, exhibiting symptoms which in veterans might be called post-traumatic stress.  People so afflicted are unfortunately numerous in Monterey County.  Medicine can treat their symptoms but does not heal the cause of their suffering.   

Bobby has interviewed our VIP speakers extensively.  He is amazed and heartened that, contrary to expectation, they have escaped the prison of isolation and busted into actual prisons with a story to tell.  These are individuals who have refused spiritual death and have insisted on coming back after heartache, often embracing young offenders very similar to ones who inflicted so much damage.  Bobby wonders whether if these “brave go-getters” might be teaching us about what a more humane medicine might look like.  Stay tuned for the film “Survivors”, coming soon!
Victim Offender Mediation Success Story by Volunteer Mediator, Rich Masters
(Name and identity have been changed for confidentiality reasons.) 
I first met Alice, the offender in this case, several years ago at the public school where I was teaching.  She was a sixth-grade student, petite in stature but gigantic in personality.  At the time  I was teaching sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade students and remember very distinctly Alice announcing herself on the first day of classes claiming, “I am here, what’s next?”, as she strutted into the classroom with a “Commander in Chief” swagger.  As I quickly learned, Alice’s bravado and larger than life persona was a huge mask covering her academic and athletic shortcomings.  As the year progressed Alice’s behavior became a force of nature, often times resulting in her being sent to the Principal’s office for disciplinary action.  Although we had a good rapport and I found her to be very cooperative in my class, over the next few months her opposition to authority, disruption to the classroom setting and the increased awareness of her own scholastic inadequacies became devastating to the school’s learning environment.  By winter break Alice was suspended from her regularly scheduled classes.  She was then enrolled in an independent study program for the remainder of the year opting for assignments to be completed at home and then submitted once a week to a designated teacher after regular school hours.   Alice’s subsequent seventh and eighth-grade years spiraled out of control.   She was frequently suspended from class and from school ultimately progressing to a district-wide expulsion for the remainder of each year.

I lost track of Alice once she was of age to attend high school.  It wasn’t until last June, as her third year of high school wrapped up, that I met up with her again through the Victim and Offender Reconciliation Program, VORP, where I am currently a volunteer mediator. 

Alice’s offense for which she was referred to VORP offered a peek into her current school experiences. The details of her offense were, 'pulling the fire alarm during the school day'.  It was caught on video and several witnesses wrote statements testifying to her actions.  I began the case with the prescribed introductory telephone calls and scheduling the pre-mediation meetings.  

In my first pre-mediation meeting with Alice and her family, I uncovered the full extent of Alice’s lack of participation in high school and the bleak road she was heading down.  After attending three years and two separate high schools, Alice had earned forty-five of her attempted two hundred and ten units.  Her junior class ranking was 226 out of 227 students.  Alice’s discipline record revealed a herculean struggle.  She had caused herself, her family, and the school a tremendous amount of distress and heartache.  Alice’s junior year amounted to 62 classroom suspensions, 30 tardies, 73 off-campus suspensions, 29 Saturday School detentions, and an academic record that reflected her disciplinary record.  Alice’s offenses included: classroom disruption, defiance of authority, profanity toward faculty and staff, possession and use of drugs, terrorist threats, assault, and fighting.  As I would soon discover, Alice’s school violations and random misbehaviors were symptomatic of her medically diagnosed Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD, and Oppositional Defiance Disorder, ODD. 

My initial meeting with the high school Principal, representing the victim in this case, disclosed Alice’s array of continued infractions and misbehaviors.  He very willingly expressed his shattered hope and drained patience with Alice’s daily derailments of the school learning environment; this was also shared by the high school administrative team as well as the faculty and support staff.  Although agreeable to proceed with the mediation, the Principal was pessimistic regarding Alice’s commitment and success with VORP.  

With Alice’s medical history of ADHD and ODD, and her academic and disciplinary record a complete disaster bundled with the well-earned distrust and severe reservations of the school community, the challenge of a successful mediation and the expectation for a 180-degree turnaround in Alice’s long history of school chaos were enormously steep.         
I extended my pre-mediation meetings with both the Principal and with Alice, and her family, by providing an additional meeting with both parties separately.   The meetings afforded more time for deeper conversation, to gain trust, and to formulate a detailed answer to the question: “What do you specifically want from this mediation?” 

Working closely with Alice and her family I learned that Alice’s older sibling had also experienced severe problems in school causing the family much pain and suffering.  The sibling’s solution came through the enrollment into a military style boarding school for incorrigible students.  While at the school, Alice’s sibling discovered a path to personal and academic success which turned out to have a profound influence on Alice.  While discussing this, Alice disclosed her desire to attend the same school as her older sibling.  This was the motivation needed for Alice to move forward.  She now had a substantive and vital goal in mind.  It was also revealed here that the new school would not accept students who had a criminal record.  The only way to achieve her goal was by working with the Principal to make things as right as possible. 

The Principal’s requirements for a resolution were more altruistic.  He wanted a comprehensive change in Alice’s behavior at school, and he wanted Alice to earn school credit toward graduation.   With the Principal’s conditions documented and with his firm yet optimistically cautious assurance to grant the mediation a sincere effort, I felt prepared enough to continue with the VORP process.  

After sharing the ground rules and the agenda for the joint mediation I had the Principal physically turn and face Alice to tell his story.  Alice was also instructed to turn and face the Principal in order to echo back his words face to face.  Talking directly to Alice, the Principal described his massive responsibilities for the safety and education of all students at the school.  The restating of the Principal’s narrative triggered an awareness in Alice that was palpable to everyone in the room.  Alice’s affect, tone of voice, and pertinent questions demonstrated an understanding and a sense of compassion for the Principal’s duties and feelings.  When it came time for Alice to tell her story to the Principal, I observed a change of heart happening.  There was a perceptible lessening of differences and adverse feelings and in its place, an ever growing dialogue of mutual understanding and empathy.   With their adherence to VORP procedures, the Principal and Alice were soon having a heartfelt conversation seeking forgiveness, acceptance, and resolution.  It was stunning to witness.

The joint mediation resulted in a win-win agreement.  The Principal wanted Alice to attend summer school and earn school credit.   Moreover, he wanted Alice to commit and dutifully carry out a set of community service hours.  That would require four weeks of classes while simultaneously completing 20 days of community service.  In addition, the new school to which Alice wanted to attend made it clear that they expected the case to be positively resolved before Alice’s admittance. This presented a huge challenge for Alice in contrast to her past history of violations and lack of commitment.   To Alice’s credit, she had a goal and a tremendous desire to attend this school.  That proved to be the deciding factor and the motivation needed for Alice to fully commit and complete this agreement. 

The end result proved very successful.  Alice completed and earned high school units for attending summer school.  She also successfully fulfilled the community service component without incident.  The Principal was not only completely satisfied with Alice’s effort and hard work but in the process established a new working and supportive relationship. It was a total change from their previous interactions and association.  With her newly earned accomplishments, Alice was soon admitted to her desired school.

I recently contacted Alice’s family for an update on her progress at the new school.  Her mother was very happy to report that Alice’s first quarter grades earned her a 3.5 grade point average while carrying a full schedule of classes and fulfilling a very busy work detail on campus.  A Win-Win, for sure.
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