Bethlehem Press

Tuesday, December 11, 2018
Conciliation specialists Mildred Duprey de Robles and Kim Milstead use group “circles” to foster dialogue and understanding in communities wracked with racial violencein their work with the DOJ’s Community Relations Service. Conciliation specialists Mildred Duprey de Robles and Kim Milstead use group “circles” to foster dialogue and understanding in communities wracked with racial violencein their work with the DOJ’s Community Relations Service.
PRESS PHOTOS BY CAROLE GORNEYRestorative practices are being used in juvenile detention centers to train staff and help reintegrate juvenile offenders into society. Kathryn Rayford is director of training and program development for Illinois Balanced and Restorative Justice (IBARJ). She said work is just beginning. In the future, they hope to expand to involve families, judges, courts and lawyers. PRESS PHOTOS BY CAROLE GORNEYRestorative practices are being used in juvenile detention centers to train staff and help reintegrate juvenile offenders into society. Kathryn Rayford is director of training and program development for Illinois Balanced and Restorative Justice (IBARJ). She said work is just beginning. In the future, they hope to expand to involve families, judges, courts and lawyers.
Michael Calvert, an elementary school principal in Pittsburgh, and Mary Ann Mason from Baton Rouge, La., were paired in the “Circle Up” dialogue on diversity. Calvert said he is struggling as a white principal with white teachers and a student population that is 60 percent black. Mason, who received her diploma from the IIRP graduate school the day before the conference, said restorative practices Michael Calvert, an elementary school principal in Pittsburgh, and Mary Ann Mason from Baton Rouge, La., were paired in the “Circle Up” dialogue on diversity. Calvert said he is struggling as a white principal with white teachers and a student population that is 60 percent black. Mason, who received her diploma from the IIRP graduate school the day before the conference, said restorative practices
Diversity trainer Stacey Mill, Ed.D, told about 60 participants in her circle that diversity means race for white people, but it is very broad. It includes sexuality, skin color, language, age, mental and physical abilities, religion and political affiliations. Diversity trainer Stacey Mill, Ed.D, told about 60 participants in her circle that diversity means race for white people, but it is very broad. It includes sexuality, skin color, language, age, mental and physical abilities, religion and political affiliations.
Audience member Sonja Smith is a hearing officer for the Charlotte-Mecklenberg Schools in North Carolina. She told attendees at the presentation on police and community tensions, that students in her schools wanted a conversation and a voice after the fatal police shooting of a black man in Charlotte in September. As a result, discussion circles are being planned to include students and school Audience member Sonja Smith is a hearing officer for the Charlotte-Mecklenberg Schools in North Carolina. She told attendees at the presentation on police and community tensions, that students in her schools wanted a conversation and a voice after the fatal police shooting of a black man in Charlotte in September. As a result, discussion circles are being planned to include students and school

Engaging in circles

Tuesday, November 22, 2016 by CAROLE GORNEY Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

The International Institute of Restorative Practices

More than 300 people from 10 countries attended the three-day International Institute of Restorative Practices’ World Conference held in October at the Hotel Bethlehem and the IIRP’s graduate school campus on Main Street in Historic Bethlehem. Countries represented included Pakistan, Australia, the Netherlands, Singapore and Canada.

Restorative practices is an emerging social science that studies ways to restore and develop social well-being and interaction through participatory learning and decision-making. The institute in Bethlehem is the world’s first graduate school devoted exclusively to teaching restorative practices. It offers a master of science degree and a graduate certificate locally and, with is partners, provides train-the-trainer programs worldwide.

The conference featured 70 sessions with speakers and presentations on how restorative practices are being applied in a myriad of situations, such as resolving relationship issues involving education, communities, law enforcement, penal systems, business and work environments.

Two conciliation specialists from the U.S. Department of Justice tackled the timely subject of “Affectively Engaging Police and Communities When Responding to Allegations of Racial Profiling and Racial Tension.” Mildred Duprey de Robles from the DOJ’s Miami field office began by showing a video that reported that 54 percent of African Americans say they have been discriminated against by police because of race and color.

De Robles explained that conciliation specialists “are not investigators or prosecutors. Our goal is to seek cooperation with those in conflict. We facilitate dialogue.”

That dialogue takes place through “study circles,” an approach that involves bringing together all the major parties affected by the issue under discussion. That can mean the mayor, other city officials, community leaders, the police chief, the business community, schools and residents.

De Robles said a very important aspect of the circles is “to unite the community through informed sharing of the local racial history and its consequences.” She added that these discussions happen in real time. “Sometimes people are rallying or demonstrating, and they agree to come together.”

Conciliation specialist Kim Milstead from the DOJ Houston field office explained that study circles involve four phases: 1) “Who we are” – trying to build trust by getting the parties to talk about their personal experiences; 2) “Where are we?” – describing the overall state of race relations in the community and highlighting different individuals’ perceptions; 3) “Where do we want to go?” – moving the group from the “me” to thinking and talking about possible directions for change; and 4) “What can; what will we do to make a difference?”

During one of the “teach-engage” sessions, about 60 attendees participated in “Circle Up: Using the Framework of Restorative Practice to Facilitate Dialogue Around Diversity.” The demonstration circle was led by Dr. Stacey Miller, a diversity training expert, who began her session by asking participants to pair with another person in the room, and discuss what they found most challenging and most inspiring about diversity conversations.

“This is how I begin almost all my diversity training,” Miller said. “I get people to get up and move around. We don’t know each other. As presenter, I want to know immediately how they are. [It’s also] a temperature read of the space. You want people to be safely grounded in the space.” She recommended always training in circles because everyone is on equal footing and no one can hide. Circles also can accommodate different group sizes and learning styles.

Her advice for facilitators dealing with conflict: “To be effective, you have to be vulnerable—open up, share personal stories about your challenges, your mistakes. We engage by role modeling vulnerability and authenticity.”