BayNVC Restorative Justice Project

For more information on the ongoing Restorative Circle practice group in Oakland, click here.

Comments about the Restorative Justice program at San Quentin prison

You guys have a magical program. A lot of men I know who are hotheads come out of it with a extraordinary amount of reason. I hear guys who would have been doing physical harm in the past, now saying, "Why do you think you feel that way and what is it I can do?" There's a lot of negotiating going on.

-- Marvin Mutch,
Men's Advisory Chairman,
elected 27 years of 30
at San Quentin prison

Restorative Justice is a name that can describe Nonviolent Communication consciousness when it is used to heal the pain that arises when people attempt to meet their needs unskillfully, including when lack of skill has brought people into conflict with our cultures' laws.

Started in 2002, our Restorative Justice program promotes healing, and supports skill-building by offering ongoing, weekly NVC trainings in San Quentin State Prison, and in jails in Sonoma, Mendocino, and Santa Cruz counties. We have wanted an active Restorative Justice Program since we first began, and were delighted when San Quentin Prison approached Diana Lion of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship about being part of a new program at San Quentin, the Success Program. Diana contacted us asking if there were trainers available, we in turn asked the members of our first Leadership Program year if they would be willing to provide trainings inside the prison; six people volunteered.

Our training team has now expanded to fourteen. Five of the original six now form a core team that is guiding development of our program and interfacing with prison and jail administrations,. Carol Chase and Meganwind Eoyang support our developing programs. John Porter is excited about raising funds to support our work. Sharran Zeleke is our liason with San Quentin. Fred Sly holds our intentions for the overall program, and for our teaching team. Mair Alight and John Porter are holding our intentions around post-release programs. Our teaching team also includes Steve Blechman, Christine King, Renee Soule, Saundra Thomas, and Bob Yamtich.

Our core team began working together after Carol and Fred attended a training offered by the CNVC sponsored, Seattle-based Freedom Project in the summer of 2003. As a result of this experience we decided to craft our own curriculum, which we accomplished and which is now being used in our classes, and proposed expanding our program at San Quentin to include a weekly practice group, and a year-long program. We are excited to report that the prison has approved both of our proposals, and these programs are now established and in place. We have also started practice groups in Sonoma County at the BayNVC Oakland office for returnees and their families. We are also offering classes in compassionate communicqtion for returnees through the San Francisco Sheriffs' Department's Nova Project of Mission Council.

Our vision for this program is to provide inmates, returnees and their families NVC trainings and practice groups throughout the greater Bay Area, free of charge. We also want to provide Restorative Circles for our communities to promote healing within the community where the offence occurred, and we are especially concerned about addressing the increase in domestic violence that we are observing nationwide.

To address these issues we need your help. Our Restorative Justice efforts so far have been based solely on the efforts of volunteers. The materials for our classes were donated by CNVC, Puddle Dancer Press, and the print shop at San Quentin for several years, and now Puddle Dancer Press offers a special discount for books used in this project. We would like to support our volunteers by reimbursing their travel expenses, and to offer them the possibility of meeting a portion of their financial needs through their activities in this program. As a result we are asking for monetary donations from our community to support this program. If you desire to support this program financially, please write "Restorative Justice Program" on your check so we know where you would like your donation to go.

We would enjoy help in writing grants to support this program and if you are excited to support us in this way please contact Dorrit Geshuri at the BayNVC office (510)433-0700. If you would like to volunteer for the program, and/or be considered for inclusion on the teaching team please contact Meganwind Eoyang at (510)433-0700.