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Restorative justice takes big vision, practical strategies

Editor of the Reformer,

We show up in classrooms. We show up in neighborhoods. We show up when people get out of prison. We're in community rooms, in offices, on Zoom calls. We sit with adults and with kids. With the willing and the skeptical. School principals. Non-profit staff. Families. Activists. Businesses. Police.

Restorative justice is a big vision with practical strategies. And we are already doing it here in Windham County.

Restorative justice asks us, when someone hurts someone else, to find out what happened, to find out the root of the behavior so we can truly face the issues without going to a quick fix like fines, jail, or even mandated community service. It involves the people directly affected by an incident in figuring out the way forward. It asks the community to sit with those who have caused harm and those who have been harmed to reckon with social problems, instead of either ignoring them or attempting to punish them away.

There are five groups in Windham County alone that do restorative justice every single day, pandemic be damned, and many more groups and individuals that live and breathe it, even if they're not part of a formal organization.

Across the U.S., and right here in Windham County, those harmed by police violence and those showing up in solidarity are asking for a collective re-imagining of what community safety looks like.

We have heard the call. Restorative justice is one of many possibilities. Having heard the call, we now have the obligation to fearlessly struggle with this question as communities here in Windham County. We are here for it.

Brattleboro Community Justice Center (Mel Motel, Jackie Trepanier, and Grace Koch)

Windham Southeast School District, Restorative Practices Program (Mike Szostak)

Greater Falls Community Justice Center (Fabio Ayala, Susie Belleci, Samia Abass, JR Layne, Ashley Sturrow, Lauren Macarthur, Diane Reinhardt and John Ungerleider)

Restorative Community Justice of Southern Vermont (Dan Dewalt, Laurie Rabut & Emma Bliss)

Youth Services of Windham County (Sally Struble)

Windham County, June 29


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