Beautiful Lowell community in which OurRJ works
OurRJ is proud to share another story with you about a young person who's life you helped change through your support of our transformative restorative justice efforts!
Amari was referred to OurRJ after being arrested, following a physical altercation that occurred in her school. After receiving the referral, OurRJ's program staff immediately began the preparation process for the restorative justice circle, including meeting with Amari and her mother, as well as the impacted young person and her family, to explore what issues would need to be addressed in circle.
What emerged next in the circle is a powerful illustration of why OurRJ believes so strongly in restorative justice as a truly transformative, developmentally responsive, and healing antidote to the damage wrought on youth and communities by the school to prison pipeline.
Despite the physical and emotional harm that had been done to the young woman assaulted by Amari, the young woman's mother made it clear from the beginning of the circle that she did not want to simply "punish" Amari. All parents in the circle recognized the irreparable damage that can occur as a result of court involvement, and though angry about what had been done to her daughter, the young woman's mother was adamant that, "I don't want to ruin kids lives, I just wanted to solve the problem."
Even more importantly, OurRJ's program staff witnessed Amari and the impact young woman quickly move from anger to a powerful display of honesty and empathy. After hearing the impact her actions had on her classmate, Amari revealed that she too had been a victim of bullying in the past, a powerful moment in whcih the two young women recognized their shared experiences.
Amari apologized for her actions, stating, "I don't want to ever make someone feel the way that I did when I was being bullied."
In addition to the acknowledgement of harm that Amari took responsibility for, a number of other important outcomes occurred as a result of the circle. Both both Amari's mother and the mother of the impacted young woman agreed that the real issue was in how the school and the police handled the situtation, including a total lack of communication and transparency with both parents. Importantly, two school guidance counselors present in the circle readily agreed, admitting that they had not done enough to proactively address conflict. During the circle, the two counselors committed to doing more on behalf of the school. Amari also agreed to collaboratively drafted Reparative Agreement terms, which will hold her accountable and allow her to repair the harm she caused her classmate, without being forced to acquire a life-altering criminal record.
Ultimately, both Amari's mother and the impacted young woman's mother agreed that the process allowed the two families to get to the root of problem and come up with empowering solutions, that did not involve futher court involvement.
Now more than ever, Massachusetts must stand as a national leader in alternatives to punitive justice. On behalf of the young people with whom we work, thank you for your support of OurRJ's efforts to bring the transformative power of restorative justice to more communities in the Commonwealth!
The OurRJ Team
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