Introducing the Southern California Restorative Justice Consortium

Welcome the So Cal Restorative Justice Consortium!

At the CURes LMU RJ Project, practicing restorative justice means taking big steps, which is why we have launched and continued to maintain the So Cal Restorative Justice Consortium. In 2020, an anonymous donor gifted us a grant to bring this extensive project into fruition. With this generous donation, we have been able to bring together institutions all over the country to make restorative justice a mainstream form of global conflict resolution.

Our Inspiration

The CURes RJ Project believes in empathetic, permanent solutions towards creating a community of care. Our definition of Restorative Justice mirrors practices rooted in Indigenous teachings that emphasize our interconnection; they do so by offering to repair relationships when harm occurs rather than the conventional method of relying on punitive forces. Our main goal with the So Cal RJ Consortium is to retire punitive measures and provide rehabilitative, restorative alternatives to any form of conflict or harm. We have established many valuable partnerships to help implement these philosophies by connecting Higher Education institutes, Archdiocesan and public-school districts, government agencies, and non-profit organizations to make restorative alternatives a nationwide strategy for change.

Our Objectives

Within the So Cal RJ Consortium are these integral factors in its sustainability plans:

  1. The creation of a network/hub models creates economies of scale and an impact multiplier. This allows collaborative groups to apply for larger scale support as opposed to submitting funding asks as a standalone entity.
  2. The increased awareness of the program efficacy will allow the Center for Urban Resilience to receive additional contracts for service, which is currently and will remain a critical element of the sustainability plan.
  3. The creation of this new network allows to accelerate scholarship around RJ, which opens the opportunity for funding from research agencies previously unapproachable.
  4. The high profile of the network and its impact makes it a desirable target for enhanced philanthropy or permanent endowment. LMU’s Advancement Office is committed to assisting CURes in acquiring such support.
  5. Through the Consortium, CURes will expand its scope of services, allowing for a greater scope of potential funding agencies, including government, academic, and philanthropic.

Our Progress

In 2021, the So Cal RJ Consortium met to conduct research on what restorative practices mean to us, as well as how our current systems of power influence their success. On December 8, 2021, the consortium gathered on Zoom to discuss the results of this research project. In this study, 17 members of the consortium participated in four RJ implementation community circles.

Our goal was to capture what the group all spoke to in terms of the results: Does this information speak our truth? Is this our narrative? What feedback do we have in accordance with the findings?

Our Methods

The Consortium’s research revealed how participants believe restorative justice to be not just a form of conflict resolution, but a way of being. Members emphasized RJ’s creation through Indigenous and African values as an ongoing means of creating a thriving community to be used even when conflict isn’t present. While RJ practices provide the means for a healthy, loving community, participating and/or facilitating implemented strategies can be a huge challenge. Restorative practices emphasize such opposite views as opposed to our current criminal justice system that attempting to implement them is always a huge challenge. These challenges drove the Consortium’s research project to ask these three questions in the implementation circles:

  • What personal and professional reflections about restorative justice implementation emerge across the K-12, higher ed, and nonprofit sectors in a cross-collaborative space?
  • What challenges and barriers exist across sectors?
  • What are helpful strategies for implementation that may be cross-applicable?

Our Research

The answers to these questions determined three major themes about our combined narratives as RJ practitioners and facilitators. Our first theme emphasizes that RJ implementation carries personal weight to the emotionality and well-being of practitioners. Not only are there institutional challenges to implementation, but personal difficulties as well. Being a practitioner means a constant dedication to unlearning former ways of knowing, negotiations of self in building a restorative mindset, and addressing the continuous tension of holding two opposing value systems because of the horizontal relationships present in hierarchical structures.

Theme two of our research expands on the point that institutions are failing to support the well-being of RJ practitioners with consequence to implementation. When left unaddressed, this lack of support causes a sense of burnout, being overwhelmed with the huge task of culture transformation, as well as high employee turnover in professional positions that seek to implement restorative practices in unsupportive institutions.

Themes one and two lead us to our third, which stresses there are steps that institutions can take to support personal practitioner well-being. Our research participants brainstormed four main strategies which they believe do so: long term, non-rushed investment within restorative practices, celebrating small successes in implementation, focusing on a culture shift over the instant gratifications of results, and working to remove the emotional and physical weight of implementation on practitioners.

The results of the research project prompted important discussions with members which reflected the values and mission of the So Cal RJ Consortium as a whole. Members overarchingly agreed that our current systems of punishment and conflict resolution serve to prevent the success of restorative practices. Mainstream institutions rely on set structures, statistics, and facts to determine the presumed validity of their results, while restorative practices cannot be effectively measured as such. The consortium members reminded each other of the fact that we don’t have to feel discouraged by not meeting the criminal justice system’s standards of legitimacy when we’re working to deny them that subjective power they define for our society. While our mainstream punitive systems stress qualitative, pre-structured results, restorative practices involve quantitative strategies prioritizing the emotional capacity and strength of all members of society.

The consortium members also discussed the necessity of viewing RJ as a cultural shift rather than an individual process reserved for instances of conflict. Our goal for these practices is to create a sustaining institution within our entire community, and therefore, we need to change the individualized way many tend to view RJ.  We all need to develop what we call RJ “heartsets” and “mindsets” in order to reject the subjective, biased powers of the mainstream systems so to sustain that community of care on a systemic basis. At the So Cal RJ Consortium, we believe that unlearning quantitative, predetermined structures means putting both our hearts and minds together to determine as a group what decisions are best for us.

Get Involved!

The So Cal RJ Consortium needs your help in making the compassionate strategies of Restorative Justice an everyday norm! Through our discussions, events, projects, and meetings, we aim to continuously and regularly partner interlocking institutions with the goal of achieving equitable, just systems of accountability for us all.

If you interested in participating in this incredible project, we recommend subscribing to our newsletter for all our upcoming events, as well as other resources available for your viewing. Feel free to contact us with any questions or comments! We look forward to walking with you all towards a restorative society!