We maintain an unfailingly supportive, kind, and compassionate demeanor in our engagement with communities. We try not to allow anything that someone does provoke us towards toxic engagement.
We encourage restorative justice, not retributive reactions. Retributive reactions are punishments. Punishment harms people by making them suffer and/or feel mental and physical pain for actual or perceived mistakes. We are categorically against the perpetuation of suffering and pain. We fervently believe that accountability can be achieved without the harm of punishment.
Likewise, we do not use the word "discipline" to refer to the meting out of punishment. Rather, for us, discipline means regular well-structured practice that ensures ever-greater heights of excellence in all of our endeavors.
We encourage accountability by thinking-through or investigating the root causes of a conflict, and then creating responses that solve or address the problems that prompted problematic behavior. This, as Dr. Ross W. Greene advises, requires rethinking how we conceive of natural consequences and imposed consequences.
We differ from Dr. Greene in creating an environment where harmful actions are not tacitly enabled by refusing to identify them and speak openly about harm. We "circle up" and guide harmful actors, victims, survivors--the whole community--towards apology, repair, restoration, making amends, and even (when it feels just for victims and survivors) forgiveness.
Understanding and valuing the natural consequences of harmful actions and working not to make the same adverse mistakes repeatedly is part of fostering accountability. Seriously devising procedures and agreements to make amends and uphold safety.
Being non-punishing also means that we maintain compassion as we encourage accountability by regulating our emotional responses and de-escalating when harm, crises, conflicts, and problems occur.
Our current systems for incarceration are deeply anti-restorative and inhumane. We advocate for these systems full replacement. The best response to persistently violent, dangerous people is intensive in-patient medical treatment in extremely humane facilities that are truly rehabilitative.
Four Principles of Universal Respect & Care
We live in societies in which there is little understanding or valuing of the ways that mistakes, trials, and errors are essential to growing and learning for children and adults. We often do not have restorative, non-judging, and non-blaming values and practices to guide us when mistakes occur.
That is why Miss tree turtle, our Co-Director, developed the following four-point corollary to ground our sense of humanity as we respect and care for each other.
Transforming and Managing Conflict
Transforming and managing conflict is a cornerstone feature of our restorative justice practice. We value holistic, integrated approaches that implement a variety of ways to mediate and negotiate, a range of disputes and offenses. Our approaches are rooted in Indigenous Native American methods (especially those taught by Ruth Locklear Revels (1936-2016) of the Lumbee Tribe and those valued in the mid-20th century African American civil rights movement). Here are a few preventative and interventional elements of our approaches (when applicable):
Conflict can be constructive and generative, teaching us how to value differences and work through challenges. Not all conflict is negative. We guide community members to differentiate between forms of pain, suffering, conflict, and offense so that community members understand that, for example, abuse may or may not be a form of conflict or discrimination may or may not have its own unique features that are different from direct physical violence.
We differentiate between managing conflict (de-escalating feelings about differences) and transforming conflicts (the hard work of making amends).
No judging, blaming or shaming
We engage in a nonjudgmental manner that strictly avoids blaming and shaming in overt or covert ways.
Clear and Non-Confusing
We value open, clear, plainspoken, straightforward, and forthright communication that avoids creating confusion. If questions are asked, we answer them directly and clearly and we encourage this kind of straightforward, transparent engagement as a cornerstone of our community counseling.
When engaging with adults, we offer advice, encouragement, and service in non-directive ways. In other words, unless they are receiving stipends and working as bona fide employees (which does involve following directions), rather than only telling people what to do, we offer best practices, wise options, and beneficial alternatives, and then encourage and empower community members to select the path that is best for them.
When engaging with children, we acknowledge that learning to follow directions is part of children's necessary developmental processes that are central to elevating safety and care in their lives. At the same time, we try to create learning spaces that uplift youth voice by encouraging best practices, wise options, and beneficial alternatives that empower youth to select the path that is best for them.
Do No Harm
We do not shrink from our responsibility to speak up when we feel community members may be harming themselves or others.
We maintain our credibility by not joining in or encouraging harmful activities of any kind, including through subtle endorsement, with community members so that we do not send mixed messages and work at cross purposes.
Personal versus Private
We talk-through the complexity of personal versus private notions in our work with community members. Everything is personal because we feel and sense things deeply within ourselves, and we recognize that we must demonstrate care and friendliness in our engagement. At the same time, we talk with community members about the matters that are private in their lives and in our lives, and the need to keep many matters private, uphold consent, and maintain boundaries. We do not try to force community members to reveal information that they deem private unless they wish to share. Talking through this complexity is one of the cornerstones of how we build trust in our engagement.
We perform ongoing assessment to learn the systemic barriers in housing, healthcare, food, and transportation that may be influencing community members' wellness.
No Passive-Aggressive Behavior
Oftentimes, when we work with people who are undergoing challenges, we may become subconsciously annoyed with them and this negativity may show up covertly in our engagement. We are careful to become conscious of our subconscious feeling and to avoid passive-aggressive behavior in our engagement. Click here and click here for overviews of passive-aggressive behavior.
We strictly avoid gaslighting (whether subtle or pronounced) and all forms of emotional manipulation. We never implicitly or explicitly make someone question their sanity or emotional stability. We encourage admitting error clearly and we do not create situations where blaming makes someone a guilty party. We engage based on factual and actual problems, not imagined and manipulated matters. Click here and click here for overviews of gaslighting behavior.
Monitoring and Managing Mood
We monitor the tone of our voices, the positioning of our bodies, and the attitude and expression of our faces so that we always counsel in supportive, encouraging ways.
We never, ever discriminate and move from bias, be it explicit or implicit. Click here for our nondiscrimination policy.
Welcoming, Timely, and Responsive
We make community members feel welcome in a session. We end on time (if there is a set time for engagement), and we schedule and perform timely follow-ups and check-ins.
Especially when someone is catastrophizing (or speaking and acting in an overwhelmed state or as if the world is about to end), or when someone is emotionally agitated, or when someone is in crisis, or when someone is prone to or on the verge of verbal and/or physical violence, it is essential that we prevent and intervene in de-escalating ways. In addition to our own approach to de-escalation, we highly value Brendan King's approach found here and here.
In learning situations, we never give adults or children anything that is or could be perceived as weapons. For adults, we encourage the proper safe storage, regulation, and maintenance of arms and weapons within people's constitutional rights in the United States. If someone is ill or prone to violence, and the topic of weapons arises, we encourage them to disarm for their own and others' protection and safety.
We encourage protecting oneself with martial physical response only in situations of imminent violence.
Fighting and Play-Fighting
We encourage a zero-tolerance on verbal and physical fighting, including play-fighting (in the case of children) because play-fighting (instead of playing safely and lovingly) gets confusing and dangerous.