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Going Off Script: What is appropriate for a facilitator to say?

January 21, 2010

The purpose of pre-conference is to inform participants about the restorative process and give them an opportunity to tell their stories. There is obviously probing with questions and some challenge. But, the process belongs to those who are affected by the crime. It’s not the facilitator’s job to fix the situation or people. The worst thing for a facilitator is to have a “saviour mentality” and seek to find the solutions.

At the same time, I’ve been known to “go off script.” I’m thinking of a pre-conference with a young offender who had confessed to several petty larcenies. During the pre-conference, his mother talked about her fears for her son, especially that he would end up in prison like other members of his family. As I listened to the interaction between mother and son, as well as the fears for the future, I felt an intense sadness. Before I thought about it, I looked at the young man in eye and said, “You do know that you’re better than this, don’t you?” That is all that was said and done. The case hasn’t gone to conference yet, but his mother has reported on some serious changes in her son and how proud she is of him.

Still, I wonder if I was within the bounds of a facilitator’s role when I said what I did. Was that okay or was I taking on a “rescuer” role?

Have you been in a similar situation? Are there times when it is appropriate to “go off script?”


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