Several immersion participants from Mexico offered comments about the experience and their hopes for the future, a few of which follow:

Through a translator, Mario Alberto Dueñas Zentella, director of training for the Tabasco State Attorney General’s Office, said:

Our system is not responding effectively to the needs of victims. We have 60,000 legal claims a year. The public prosecutor has no way to address this many cases efficiently. We need to find new ways to provide quality service and alternative means of solving conflicts. This will form the foundation of a new criminal justice system in the state of Tabasco.

We need alternative means in order to have the highest impact in the community on crime and empower two parties in conflict to solve their own legal issues and meet their own needs. We expect a large percentage of cases will find a solution through alternative measures throughout Mexico. The government has given us six years to implement these changes. But we don’t want to wait. Now, we have seen a new vision and perspective on ways to help teens in conflict with the law and a more comprehensive way, not only to resolve legal conflicts but also to provide education support to create better values and a more peaceful way of life.

...The visit from New Orleans was initiated by Jefferson Parish Juvenile Court Judge Nancy Konrad, who “read an article about restorative practices and had a dream for our future,” said immersion participant Blake Bascle. A juvenile court intake officer for the Jefferson Parish Juvenile Court pre-adjudication program, FINS (Family In Need of Services), Bascle attended an IIRP training in October 2009 and “started doing circles immediately.” He has used them, he said, “with 100 kids. Kids love it. Restorative practices are about reinstituting community and building connectedness. It’s easy to victimize people you don’t know. If you improve relationships you change behavior. Then you see more success in school and less crime.” Bascle said he was “excited to see all the people I came with attach positively to the idea of restorative practices. Everyone was transformed. There are people here from our schools, juvenile justice and police. I hope our whole parish can be on board working with kids in this way. I tell people I came here to learn how to change the world. Really.”

Seeing kids take responsibility for themselves and each other [at the CSF Buxmont school] was BEAUTIFUL! If we can implement restorative practices, I know I’ll have a reduction in habitual rule violators. Students will have a voice. This isn’t fluff, and it isn’t fake. It’s a valuable tool for any learning community, for any community, period.

Davon Hayes, principal of West Bank Community School, an alternative school for at-risk youth, said:

I was already sold that we need restorative practices in our school. I brought one of my favorite teachers, who’s punitive. I need people to buy in: that’s why so many of us are here. The best thing was to see it [restorative practices] put in play. These [CSF Buxmont] students are very much like my kids. All of my kids were expelled; 71 percent have arrest records; 53 percent have drug and alcohol issues. Restorative practices will give my kids social skills, enable them to learn how to deal with conflict and encourage them to lead. Seeing kids just like mine working together, supporting each other and confronting each other in a non-threatening way and accept it was an inspiration. This is what my kids need.

 

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