Community Works's Jo Bauen writes for the Stanford Social Innovation Review about a group of inmates benefitting from a practice that’s badly needed both within and beyond prison walls.
In these days of increasing racial injustice and fear of “the other,” we are losing sight of what we might call civilized society. We’re witnessing the blatant denial of civil rights for black and brown Americans. And increasingly, many of us are feeling as if we can’t trust each other, elected officials, or our public safety institutions. But at one California State prison, there is cause for hope; here, in the most unlikely of locations, a Restorative Justice practice, led by incarcerated felons, offers a powerful model of healing for us all.
I work for Oakland’s Community Works West, a non-profit aimed at mitigating the impact of incarceration on families by using principles of Restorative Justice—that is, by focusing on rehabilitation and repairing the damage caused by crime. Three years ago, I was tapped to pilot a parenting curriculum at Solano Prison in Vacaville, California. Solano houses approximately 4,000 men, and over time, in the course of teaching the parenting class, I witnessed hundreds of inmates in my classes suffer due to broken relationships with their families. I realized that these individuals clearly needed ways to make amends, not only to their victims, but also to their spouses, and especially, to their children. And so I introduced the idea of Restorative Justice to my students and their families.
Read the rest of Jo Bauen's essay published in Stanford Social Innovation Review.