Center discussion introduces ‘restorative justice’

The Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center hosted an all-day event Wednesday about a new form of conflict resolution called “restorative justice.”

The event was the first of a series of group discussions, during which Brazilian practitioner Dominic Barter introduced the concept.

From Oct. 13 to 16, Barter will hold facilitation practices where students will work in groups to apply what they have learned. During these practices, Barter will present the step-by-step process and then break attendees into restorative circles to apply the concept to their own personal conflicts.

Restorative justice has developed into a practice responding to conflict within the judicial system as well as more informal societal situations, such as at school or work. Barter said this practice enables people to reflect on the conflict and to encourage dialogue. When the justice system responds to conflict sometimes it creates more pain, Barter said.

“Typically, we think about the justice system responding by (use of) punishment, which causes harm — punishment is painful,” Barter said.

He said restorative practices provide new solutions. Giving a voice to those who have been negatively affected leads to healing and transformed solutions, he said.

Although the discussion varies for each situation, in each discussion everyone is given the chance to express their pain and talk about transformative experiences that can help encourage others to also speak up.

“I will offer some suggestions for a particular use of a dialogue process, particular questions that can facilitate a meeting,” Barter said. “The emergence of restorative justice proves the ability to deal with a wide range of conflicts, such as intense social conflict battles with police to simple everyday conflicts reasonably well-known in the U.S.”

Joey Merrin, a graduate student, said these conflicts can range from theft to assault to first degree murder in Brazil.

“Students could even apply these principles to dorm conflicts,” Merrin said.

Carrie Anderson, chief at Ikenberry Dining Service, said she heard about this event from her boss.

“This seemed like a unique experience,” Anderson said. “I was particularly intrigued about the new approach to conflict resolution.”

Because her workplace has a large staff, Anderson said there are all kinds of conflict she has to manage. Thus, Anderson sought new ideas to address such potential conflicts.

The facilitation practices will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. from Oct. 13 to 16 at the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, 202 S. Broadway Ave., in Room 100.