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Restorative Justice with Juvenile Cases


“Our system has proven woefully inadequate, so we can’t just keep doing what we’ve been doing.” Said Jimmy Hung Chief Prosecutor for Juvenile courts in King County (Seattle, Washington). He doesn’t see evidence that jailing them changes anything. He’s most concerned about a system that funnels teenagers through detention and sees most leave no better than when they arrived — sometimes far worse.”

Last week I got to catch up with an old friend and someone whom I deeply respect and am honored to learn from and with, Saroeum Phoung. Honestly, he blew my mind as he shared about the incredible work they are doing in King county… on a systemic level and impacting the lives of thousands of people. Below is more from the articles:

Prosecutor Hung and his colleagues in King County took a risk and began implementing Peacemaking Circles, a form of restorative justice, for both misdemeanor and felony juvenile cases, working with lead consultant (and phenomenal human being) Saroeum Phoung from Pointonenorth Consulting LLC.

“The peacemaking process promises a clean start in return for hard conversations, intensive self-reflection, empathy-building and public amends.

“What people don’t realize is that this restorative justice work is harder than going to jail!” – Saroeum Phoung.

Getting the teen to connect his victim’s experience with his own feelings for family had been an essential goal for peace-circle leader Saroeum Phoung.

“There’s a solid amount of kids that this won’t work for — kids who think ‘I’m a gangbanger, and that’s all,’ ” said Vincente, now 18, who was a senior at Ingraham High School when he threatened another student, over social media, with a semi-automatic weapon.

Vincente met with the mother of his victim.

“I saw a lot of my mom in her, and I really began to understand what my actions had done to their whole family,” he said. “I thought it was just going to be why I’m a bad kid, but it turned out to be about fixing my family, too, getting at the root of why I was struggling. That’s really what it’s about.”

“If we can see kids enter the system and actually come out better on the other end,” Hung said. “That’s what we should be striving for.”

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Freeing Ourselves

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space.

He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us restricting us to our own personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

- Albert Einstein

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Dwelling Together in Unity

While I was on retreat a few weeks ago a Hebrew prayer began to sing through my being. Often since then I’ve found myself in moment’s of reverence singing this tune. The other night I looked up what the prayer is about… what is the message that arrived to me in Hebrew’s harmony, stirring in me a connection that I know runs deep in my soul.

He-Nay Ma Tov-u Ma Nayim, Shevit Acheem Gam Ya-Chad
He-Nay Ma Tov-u Ma Nayim, Shevit Acheem Gam Ya-Chad
He-Nay Ma Tov, Shevit Acheem Gam Ya-Chad
He-Nay Ma Tov, Shevit Acheem Gam Ya-Chad

This prayer comes from the beginning of Psalm 133: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

I’m still feeling how this touches me. For now it is the Hebrew and melody of the prayer that stirs me most. This morning, the English is sitting with me in an echo of, “See, feel, experience the peace of us being together, living our unity.”

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