...The week’s activities were organized by Restorative Rochester, a voluntary association of organizations and individuals, through the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence at the University of Rochester.

Barter has been sharing his concepts and training groups on how to implement his system’s style which, like restorative justice, focuses on the bigger picture of all who are harmed by offenders, whether in a classroom fight or neighborhood gang violence.

A native of London, he learned firsthand about violence while living in Brazil, where Rio de Janeiro’s shanty towns were plagued by drug gangs. Instead of fearing the violence, he said he sought to understand why it was happening. He went into the towns and listened to what their residents had to say, gained the trust of children who introduced him to their older siblings, and continued building on the relationships he formed.

Barter said he felt privileged that the residents not only started to trust him, but also began to confide in him their own fears about what was happening around them.

“Being afraid and not listening yourself and avoiding conflict, that’s what’s dangerous,” he said. “The conflict has to speak louder to get your attention. The way to raise the volume is to violate others.”

...Kit Miller, director of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, based at the University of Rochester, sees restorative justice as a means to bring greater peace to the Rochester community. She is one of a group of supporters who founded Restorative Rochester in February.

Miller, who has been involved with nonviolent organizations in various capacities for more than 15 years, said almost 100 percent of the violent offenders she encounters through her service started out in the criminal justice system as a youth. A community goal should be to reach youths at their first encounters with the system, and lead them down a different path.

“Restorative justice is a community-based response when harm or violence occurs,” she said. “When we see people as a whole person, we don’t want to throw them away.”

She said the circumstances that lead people to violence also should be considered. Restorative Rochester’s plan is to work in schools, neighborhoods and courts to change the criminal justice process from the bottom up.

“I ask people what would it be like to live in a community where something really different happened when people get into trouble,” Miller said. “A bunch of people have said, ‘I don’t know, but I’d like to see what would happen.’”

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