Restorative Practices and Restorative Justice seeks a balance between local community norms and larger social norms. We all agree it’s not okay to kill someone or to steal from people. However, some local communities stressed by long term economic instability, poverty and gangs begin to create a different standard of social norms that become a subculture. The labels we apply: criminal, thug, hoodlum, all diminish the individual. These labels create a disconnect between that person and the culture. Because we are social beings, and want to belong, these individuals find others like them, people who have also been ostracized and shunned, and they create a their own subculture. These labels presume that there is no interdependence between that individual and the communities in which they live. The subculture becomes the arbiter of norms.
For some, the introduction to a different set of social norms may be difficult. This is where community leaders are so important. Particularly with youth who are struggling to find their own identity. Community leaders like coaches, teachers, neighborhood leaders, mentors and clergy all offer the possibility of positive role models supporting social norms that are grounded in Core Assumptions.
Core Assumptions in Restorative Practices*
1. We all have inherent worth- We all have within us the same inalienable core. With help and guidance we can make choices that support that core and lead to healthy and positive relationships which lead to a healthy society.
2. We are inherently social beings- We want to, and must, live in relationships and in community in order to thrive. Numerous studies have shown that isolation damages our sense of self and our understanding of the world.
3. We each have something unique to offer the world- Our uniqueness is a great gift, we need only draw it out of one another. That can be done with good boundaries, support, deep compassion and caring. Each has something special to contribute to the greater whole.
4. We have what we need right here- The wisdom of the ages has provided us with stories, legends, philosophies and religions that offer perspective and can help guide us in positive directions.
5. We are part of an Interdependent web of all existence- Everything is interconnected and interdependent. Our lives are dependent on one another in all ways. We receive support and guidance, sustenance for mind body and spirit from those around us.
6. We exist within a larger system(Holistic)- Labels may define us in specialized subjective categories, but we are first and foremost human beings and we are whole— body, mind and spirit. Labels break us down and chip away at our self-worth and holistic sense of self, diminishing our place in community.
7. We all want to live in safe, respectful and healthy communities. It takes practice to hold onto these deeper and more holistic beliefs. We want to address the larger problem of living and being in relationships and in communities together in a way that respects the individual and the community and reflects the values we hold.
*Adapted from Suffolk University