Restorative justice models have been used in a variety of settings to resolve disputes, promote healing, and hold people accountable for their roles in causing harm.
In 2014, NCIP piloted an innovative restorative justice project in collaboration with leading national restorative justice experts. The project was initiated with a three-day retreat at NatureBridge Retreat Center in the Marin headlands that brought together exonerees and crime victims from unrelated exoneration cases. For the first time, these two groups participated in a professionally facilitated restorative circle to engage in safe, respectful dialogue about their experiences with wrongful conviction, and how their personal experiences could be used to improve policies for everyone. In 2016, NCIP hosted two additional three-day-long restorative justice retreats at NatureBridge, and expanded the group of participants to include family members of exonerees along with exonerees and crime victims.
At both the 2014 and 2016 retreats, participants engaged in a restorative justice circle process in which participants sit in a circle formation and learn about one another by sharing stories and listening to each other. Restorative justice circle processes provide much needed opportunities for harmed individuals to share their perspectives in a safe place where they can feel anger and grief and heal. The retreats were led by “circle keepers” who created structure for the circle and ensured conversations followed the group’s agreed upon guiding values.
In addition to sharing their remarkable stories, retreat attendees together built a community of support and turned to one another for help with the healing process. The restorative justice circles were emotional, inspiring and transformative.