Ted Lewis is a Restorative Justice trainer and consultant with the Center for Restorative Justice & Peacemaking at the University of Minnesota.
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David (he/him) 0:02
This restorative justice life is a production of amplify RJ follow us on all social media platforms at amplify RJ or sign up for our email list to stay up to date on everything we have going on. And to get the most involved join our free mighty networks community to get connected with others living this restorative justice life all over the world. As far as this podcast goes, make sure you subscribe, leave a rating and review and share with a friend to help us further amplify this work. Enjoy the episode. Welcome to this restorative justice life, the podcast that explores how the philosophy practices and values of restorative justice apply to our everyday lives. I'm your host, David Ryan Garcia, Castro Harris, all five names for the ancestors. And I'm the founder of amplify RJ on this podcast, I talk with RJ practitioners, circle keepers, and others doing this work about how this way of being has impacted their lives.
David (he/him) 0:52
Ted, welcome to this restorative justice life. Who are you?
Ted Lewis 0:58
Well, foremostly, I'm a lover of Lake Superior. I just I live very close to the north shoreline in Duluth, Minnesota. And I love cold water and I just can't get enough of that lake.
David (he/him) 1:13
Who are you?
Ted Lewis 1:15
Someone who got introduced to restorative justice on Pine Ridge Reservation. It was back in the early 90s. Through some Mennonite workers that were adapting a restorative dialogue process for the Lakota indigenous folk there. And ever since then, I've been sort of grabbed by restorative work for my vocation.
David (he/him) 1:39
Who are you?
Ted Lewis 1:41
I am someone who comes from an overseas background. My parents were missionaries in Portugal of all places. So when I was a boy, I, I lived in Portugal, and moved early on back to Minnesota. So I'm kind of a bicultural person. And I think that fed my capacity to be a mediator facilitator between two two parties.
David (he/him) 2:13
Who are you?
Ted Lewis 2:15
I'm currently trainer and consultant for the Center for restorative justice and peacemaking at at University of Minnesota, based here in Duluth. And that center is distinguished as being the oldest academic based center for restorative justice worldwide. Started by Dr. Markham bright in 1994. I have Mennonite connections, I didn't grow up in that religious tradition. But in college years, I was sort of won over by the peacemaking tradition, the serve the servanthood tradition within the Mennonite World, and Mennonites were pretty instrumental starting in Ontario and an Indiana proceeding some of the modern expressions of restorative work. So that's a big part of my own sense of rootage. In terms of tradition, and restorative background for me.
David (he/him) 3:17
Who are you?
Ted Lewis 3:19
I'm a poet, an artist on the side, I've always liked create creative work at times I find sort of a convergence of my creative activities and do restorative work is when I do trainings, workshops, presentations, I just love coming up with new metaphors and images and pictures. And all of that, for me is a very creative activity, type of teaching, teaching restorative work to other people.
David (he/him) 3:52
And finally, for now, who are you?
Ted Lewis 3:55
I am Ted Lewis and I love watching the planets when one of my hobbies is to track planets in the sky. When whenever I can go to the lake side and look at the eastern horizon. I just really enjoy looking at stars and planets in their movement.
David (he/him) 4:16
Well, thank you, Ted, so much for sharing just those bits about who you are. We're gonna get into all the intersections of those and how they apply to this restorative justice life right after this.
Elyse (she/her) 4:27
Hey, folks, I'm Elise, your producer, and today we are welcoming Ted Lewis to the podcast. Ted is a restorative jus tice trainer and consultant with a center for restorative justice and peacemaking at the University of Minnesota. Without further ado, let's get right back into it, where you will learn more about listening to the movement with Ted Lewis.
David (he/him) 4:48
Thank you so much, Ted, for being with us on this restorative justice life. I'm very excited to have this conversation for a couple of reasons. One, it's always good to talk to one of the folks who've been doing this work almost since I've been alive, but it's also really exciting to talk to you because you are one of the editors of this project that culminated in a book called listening to the movement, but it's a larger project of overall, taking the pulse of the restorative justice movement. And, you know, we're gonna get to all of that in just a moment. But it's always good to check in. So to the fullest extent that you want to answer the question, how are you?
Ted Lewis 5:26
I'm actually kind of worn down. Just to be open and honest, I have been bearing the emotional weight of a couple of challenging cases. One is restorative justice in nature. Another is more of an organizational mediation case. And all spring, I've had to navigate some really difficult terrain, to try to build trust between parties, and I'm ready for some extra self care and, and a break from that hard work.
David (he/him) 6:00
I imagine part of that is engaging in the lake in nature and somehow but what else does self care look like for you?
Ted Lewis 6:08
After a really tough case I've tried to do at Sona. Anything that kind of helps me to detox is always a healthy thing. I'll create my own little happy hours, at the end of the day, you know, to have some chips and salsa and a drink. And that's, that's a pretty standard one for me.
David (he/him) 6:29
It's always good to think about the ways to both unwind self soothe, but also proactively make sure that we have the capacity to continue to do this work, which you've been doing for decades. Now, the way that we, you know, often get into the origins of folks work is asking the question like this, you've been doing restorative justice work for a while, but you were probably doing it or had inklings of this work before you even knew the words. So how did this get started for you?
Ted Lewis 7:01
Well, I mentioned in that who, who are you that in the early 90s, I got introduced to the concept through folks applying it on the Pine Ridge Reservation. And prior to that, I already was bending toward peacemaking, both in terms of dialogue and activism. And in the in the 80s, I kind of felt a tension between those two, like, like I was close to activist groups, in the Twin Cities. But at some point, I came to a conclusion that activism alone doesn't necessarily build trust between people on a relationship level. So I started to explore different ways where communication and relationship building and trust building, were connected to peacemaking. And then once I learned about restorative justice through some of those Mennonite connections, and that really opened up a whole new horizon for me.
David (he/him) 8:05
Yeah, I want to go back to that tension between like activism and and peacemaking, right, because one of the things that I think about in my journey when I, for folks who listen to the podcast know that I spent a lot of time in Chicago, in some of my formative years of restorative justice work. And in Chicago, the model of community organizing that was built by Saul Alinsky, right is very antagonistic, right. And, in many ways, causing harm, while trying to advocate for the reduction of harm from people who who exist in those power structures that are oppressing people on the margins, people of color people who have been disenfranchised by systems in so many other ways, and using shame in order to try to, you know, get it get their way when the campaigns that can be very, very effective in making short term wins winning campaigns, but like what you're talking about in the, in the the tension between, you know, working for justice, freedom, liberation for people who are on the margins, and building peace at the same time, like those, the those two things can seem in opposition right now, in the moment that we're having this conversation, but the conversation around the Second Amendment and and gun rights is all of is all up on people's minds. And at the same time, the conversation around abortion rights has still been restocked, and it's very easy to vilify the people who are upholding policy that many who are more left leaning more progressive leaning, whatever you want to say It's very easy to vilify the people who are in opposition to us. But, you know, I imagine in some of the instances that you were experiencing back in the 80s, like some of the same tension still existed, how were you able to navigate that with this restorative lens?
Ted Lewis 10:17
Yeah, you're raising a lot of important things. There's several layers to this discussion both. How does activism and peacemaking work together? And then how do you deal with polarizing issues? One, one example that was pretty foundational for me that that kind of connects the relationship side of the equation with the systemic change side is when when my daughters were young, we had a Walmart in our community. And I noticed that right in the entryway, where this was back in the day when you could have like gladiator type arcade games right in the beat right in the entryway of a Walmart. And, and these were like gladiator fights to the death, you know, and you know how, like, before you put your quarters in the visual screen would show these, these gladiators going at it and stabbing each other in blood splattering and that sort of thing. And I had to ask myself, Do I really want my three year old daughter to be viewing this if we're going to come into a Walmart each time. And it just kind of opened up a thought like, I don't really personally like this in a public space. And so I knew from my earlier activist years, I could draw attention to that. I could pick it, I could get some folks, I could get media attention. I knew all of those strategies to try to leverage change. But I said, I'm going to take a whole nother angle here, I'm actually going to try to have conversations with the main manager. And so I set up times to meet with a manager and focused on communication relationship building is there some common interests and common ground rather than leveraging a force, just assuming that I needed to leverage force to make change happen? The short outcome of this is that main manager was open to a scenario of change. And then a new manager came in, but the old manager actually had connections with with folks at the headquarters in Arkansas. And he set things in motion for discussion at a national level to consider removing violence oriented arcade games from their entryways. And then a second manager, I got to know him had conversations with him. And he said some things in motion within 12 months, based on that relationship building, Walmart made a national policy to pull violence oriented arcade games from their entryways cross the nation, I mean, that's huge systemic change. So that was a really big moment for me to realize that building a bridge, really is, is not just kind of warm, fuzzy, nice stuff to do, it actually can be a strategic way to bring about systemic change.
David (he/him) 13:28
Yeah, absolutely. And for those that are listening, and thinking, Yes, and we've tried, they just don't see us as human, and they don't value us. I'm wholly sympathetic to that right? At the intersections of your identity as a white man, like those conversations are taken a little bit more seriously than it might have if somebody else tried to initiate that conversation about the intersections of other identities that are often more marginalized. And even if those intersections of your identity are what they are, there's not always going to be that reciprocity from people who are going to want to build relationships. What do we do then?
Ted Lewis 14:10
Yeah, that's a that's a great thing to bring up. And certainly the last 20 years, last 10 years, and even the last five years have heightened their awareness around power and privilege issues for for this topic. You know, I think what it really comes down to is where can trust be built to supplement truth, truth telling. So, if we think of an x and y graph, and on one side we have truth telling, and on another we have trust building. The question is how can you balance both of them if in fact you you want brave truth, to have a force just like God Gandhi is talking about such such a gara truth forts and connect that with a trust building element. So that they're kind of like working together, because I've noticed that if there's just truth telling, without trust building that sometimes creates a little more tension, a little more alienation. So I'm a big advocate, even if, if it's a matter of communities of color, trying to have difficult conversations with with other stakeholders who are not representing or having affinity with those communities, is to strategize around how do you build trust. The same thing with police, I did a whole speech at our lynching memorial here in Duluth, about about a year ago, we have the first lynching memorial in the nation here. 2003 and Bryan Stevenson is totally aware of it and was our keynote speaker. I also gave a speech on building truth and trust together with police and community referencing communities of color. And we've had efforts for them to have conversations where there was a lot of truth telling. And it kind of backfired, because there was not enough trust building. And when that happens, there's greater tension for future conversations, it actually makes it harder to come back into the next time to try to have some kind of collaborative conversation. So I'm really big on the concept of how truth and trust have to fold together. If you want people to coexist in the same community.
David (he/him) 16:46
Yeah, you're touching on what is probably the most hot button issue of this podcast. And we're gonna go there in just a second. But I just want to take a pause to acknowledge that. No, when the issue of you know, the intersection of restorative justice in the criminal legal system, and the intersection of restorative justice and law enforcement gets brought up by people who often listen to this podcast, have an abolitionist mindset, right? Fuck the police, a cab cops or pick all those things, right? With that tension in mind, like it's about the person and their job. It's not about that person, as an individual. And I know people who are on that side of the quote, unquote, thin blue line, see those things as inseparable, often, right? And there are other people on that side of the line saying like, Hey, I'm here trying to do good for the community. Maybe as a representative, I'm trying to make the change communities across the country have seen the way that like that system does not want to be reformed and so to truth tell to that system that has constantly violated trust the other way, right? Is something that is I'm gonna say for the purposes of our conversation right now like damn near impossible to do. And like I acknowledge the the benefit of, you know, when you bring up the x&y axis, the vertical horizontal, I think a lot about like the quote unquote, social discipline window where we're talking about like, expectations and challenge and limit setting and discipline with support and encouragement. People are familiar with like the two with more and not quadrants neglect, permissive, punitive restorative spaces. And we do want to be in that space that is restorative, but like, that has to be reciprocal. And so I guess my question coming like, within like this, we can talk about it and like the specific framing, of policing, if you have, I want to absolve you of like the responsibility to like have the solution for like, how do we deal with like policing in America? And but like, if you have a solution for or a way forward, that you've seen work in this example, or just thinking about the way that when trust is not reciprocated, like how do you then navigate?
Ted Lewis 19:09
Maybe this is an opportunity to bend the conversation towards the listening to the movement book? Because one, one of the foundational ideas of that book that final Davis mapped out so well and her forward is that up until more recently, there has always been kind of a tension between social justice activism and restorative justice, Mike micro response to harm and conflict issues. And so really what what she does so well in that forward as well as her little book on race and RJ, is to say we need to bring together the warrior impulse for systemic change and the healer impulse for relational restoration. And if you only do one or the other, you're really not going to have what she's calling a full bodied approach to, to movement building. And so I think that's part of the the tension there in the restorative justice world. It's it has a legacy of being a program, a service provision, an incident response. And then in more recent years, it's like, we got to go upstream, or we have to deal with conditions, there has to be deeper community involvement, system change. And so all of those things are converging. My fear is that because it's sort of voguish, for progressives to focus on transformational change, that there's actually a danger of compromising the legacy of that micro relational building. And I really believe that font Barney understands the need to balance the two big because if if the systemic change, upstages the the legacy of trust building and relationship building and micro peacemaking, you know, at those small, incremental levels, it's just going to turn turn the movement into another revolutionary cause, which has its own challenges around balance and in power leveraging. So I really approach this issue from, from the standpoint that there has to be constant effort to bring that healer and warrior instinct together, rather than just letting the warrior instinct sort of define all of the work.
David (he/him) 21:48
Yeah, I appreciate you bringing in you know, that aspect to it. And I want to like, maybe thread back to what you experienced at Pine Ridge, right? What we're, I'm thinking about how fun years story and you know, find your is the the dream guest to get on this podcast, that's gonna happen at some point. But I'm thinking about her journey as a civil rights lawyer, right? And then learning indigenous ways of healing and peacemaking. Right? Is where that dichotomy comes from, and like, became really salient for her when you were coming out of, you know, activist, peace building space, and then landed in Pine Ridge. What was that experience? Like? What stood out to you from that experience? What made this be like, oh, yeah, this is the thing that I need to spend, you know, seem seemingly, the rest of you are doing
Ted Lewis 22:44
I would sum it up this way. It's, it's the sacredness of dyadic conversation. There's something extremely sacred, when harming and harm, people become vulnerable. And get to the point where they find new strength to either share their stories of harming or being harmed. And in that vulnerability is the paradox of human connection, empathy, letting go of hard things. And that's a, you know, Mark Umbright talks about that is a very sacred zone. And it's a very human zone, it's at some level, it's transcultural, when you think about the power of people connecting on those deep levels of understanding and empathy. And because I've witnessed that so many times at the micro level, I can never let that go. I mean, that's what really drives me vocational is the power of being bearing witness, you know, the courageous, defending and victimize people who are willing to go to those places for deeper conversation. So, how I relate that to the the wider systemic change, there is a need for that systemic change, like, you know, whether it's in the abolition tradition, or the Civil Rights tradition, or the Gandhian tradition, I have no trouble with the concept of disturbing the status quo, to bring about change. But I never want it to be at the expense or at odds with that sacred zone of how dyadic dialogue is extremely powerful, as a way for people to be able to coexist in diverse communities. And whenever I sense a little bit of eclipsing of that, I tend to be really tuned into that,
David (he/him) 24:46
Keeping in mind the confidentiality of these processes and the sacredness of these stories. Are there incidents that you've been given permission to share about that really stand out? that really made this dyadic dialogue salient for you that like made it really clicked for you. Over the years, maybe like it's the first time that it really clicked or maybe just in a really impactful time. Over the years of doing Yeah,
Ted Lewis 25:15
I appreciate that invite. And yeah, there are stories that actually went public in newspapers. So there's there's no breach of confidentiality. One of the standout ones for me was, on 911, September 11 2001, there was a middle aged man who was charged with a hate crime. in Eugene, Oregon, I worked in Eugene for 10 years, basically death threats to Islamic Cultural Center. And there were like several phone calls, but it involved verbal death threat to people in the wake of 911. And the short of it is, is that the Human Rights Commission in the city, which was pretty progressive for, you know, 20 years ago, routed the case to my program, because the Muslim couple did not want to look vindictive through a court based process, they really were thankful for a community based process. And it ended up that the responsible party was acting more solo wasn't really like acting out of a white supremacist group or anything like that, but was acting pretty, pretty solo and ended up willing to take ownership and was apologetic. So amazingly, because of the stakeholders, and the District Attorney's Office and the Human Rights Commission, we were able to have prep meetings within a month from 911. And I think it was a month and a half, we had a joint meeting, which involves kind of a large circle. This is sort of before circles, where even no one has circles, but probably 25 people in the room. Two hours of pretty difficult conversation, we actually reached an impasse. And it was suggested that we take a break and come back a week later. So kind of to come full circle to what you're getting at like Have I really witnessed the power of dyadic conversation. What basically happened is that the Muslim man who was primarily the impacted party kept saying, Why did you do this? Why did you do this? He wasn't getting the kind of answers that were satisfying him. He was he was a scientist, he he needed something deep, as well as something that made sense. And he kept pressing for that. And the responsible party struggle with accounting for that. When we all came back a week later, something had percolated for the responsible party. And, and he began to talk more out of his backstory. And, and started to account for the death of a child at age one that happened in September. And he relived that traumatically every September and kind of lost his bearings and said a few other things about his worldview, that, that helped him fit some puzzle pieces together. And out of that sharing, the Muslim man finally said, this is helping me this is really helping me now. And then shift happened. That's a powerful phrase I use in all my trainings, because when when people finally have enough verbal gift exchange in dyadic conversation, they feel like they can let go of, of their clashing narratives and re narrate things in a way that helps them to move forward. And when shift happens, that's when people can talk about the future. And that happens at a deep, sacred energetic level. It's not just word content. It's rebuild trust, where trust was lost, or didn't or didn't exist. Exactly. So that can happen between police and people of color, if they're willing to be vulnerable to talk about how violence has affected them. This This has been tried in Milwaukee, you put together a group of officers with a group of reintegrating offenders even if even if they're like in Milwaukee, but predominantly black. And you ask the same question to all of them. How has violence affected you? You get them talking out of their stories, and all of a sudden everyone's becoming a human being. That's that's a huge way to it dynamically opened up some bridges where there's naturally some wealth.
David (he/him) 30:06
I want to touch on a few things that came up for me when you were talking about the case, one, the impact of we came to an impasse, and we took a break and came back. Right? Earlier, you talked about, you know, the way that restorative justice restorative practices have, in some places that we, you and I probably wouldn't like call very restorative spaces, like have become very programmatic, like, Okay, you have X amount of meetings, and it needs to happen in this timeframe. And if it doesn't happen, okay, we're gonna reroute it to our more punitive way of being, it's great that you had like, one, the ability to have those pre meetings, so quickly, had the ability within the program, within the context that you had to, you know, to cycle back for people who are thinking about navigating conflict and harm. In restorative ways, it's not a linear thing that you can just say, like, we will resolve this, in these three, our state or, God forbid, you even think about like, hey, and this half hour, quote, unquote, circle after school, right, we're gonna guess that it's not always like that, right? And there are things that you can do to help. I'll say, expedite and make processes more efficient with pre work, right. But like, it's still not linear, and it still requires the time. What I also appreciate, in which the story that you shared is, you know, the dissatisfaction of the person who was impacted the man who was impacted. Right, people who have been harmed, don't always get the answers that they're looking for, don't always get their needs met 100%. And we, as much as like, I'm an advocate for restorative processes. And I imagine you are right, like, this isn't like some easy thing that like, you're gonna get the results that you want, every time in this circumstance, you know, there was some deeper understanding some new trust built. And, you know, I'm assuming people were able to move on with their lives in ways that were less where there was less fear, right. And less uncertainty. And so thank you so much for that story. And then when you come back and talk about the way that this can impact like individual relationships between police officers and community members, like I definitely have seen and like acknowledged the way that those stories can impact the way that an officer views somebody in the community, or people in the community view individual officers, and at the end of the day, it is still the officers job to enforce the lot in ways that are not necessarily conducive to still building community trust.
Ted Lewis 33:09
Yeah, definitely a tension there, between roles, agendas, paradigms, and then sort of having like this, this unique opportunity of human connection in the midst of that wider context.
David (he/him) 33:26
Right, right. Because you know, those things can be those dialogues can be harm reductive, right? That can on like, as you were sharing in those human to human interactions, be restorative, be transformative, help people intention, navigate those those micro situations and folks who are advocating for transformative justice, like changing the conditions under which harm between specifically police and marginalized communities both, you know, communities of color, black communities, people who are disabled people who experience mental health challenges, etc, etc. Those systemic things still exist. And it's beyond just like the incidents of individual harm that we need to navigate. I don't want to like linger on that too much. There are so many other things that we get to talk about, you know, we talk about on this podcast, you know, your journey through the work. And because it's been decades, I don't want you to go like blow by blow on. Every project that you've worked on everything that have year by year has been impactful for you. But you know, your career in this work has led you through a lot of different spaces, from academia to the criminal legal system in lots of lots of different contexts. And I'm curious if there are any other stories, incidents, learnings that were really important to you, leading up to where we're going to get into the genesis of the listening to the movement project in 2015?
Ted Lewis 34:58
Yeah, I think one thing I was aware of because because of how some Mennonite connections really opened up things vocationally for me, I was aware that along with Howard Zair, that Eastern Mennonite University was partnered with John Paul veteran who ended up getting involved with international peacemaking and went to Notre Dame. He was very active in the 80s with another man called Ronald Craig Kraybill. And both of them initially, we're developing dialogue based models for addressing conflicts within faith communities. And there's sort of a joke, an insider joke that came up, like back in those days. And the joke was, you know, why did these two pioneers John Paul letter and Ronald Crable leave the field of church conflict resolution to do international peacemaking? And the answer is, well, because the latter was far easier. Sure, you know, so so they get involved with like, African transitional justice stuff, and tribal, working with tribal conflicts and stuff like that. But I was always aware, since I have a you know, a church faith background, what would it be like to take what I'm learning in the criminal realm with restorative justice and apply it to faith communities. And so at times I've done I've done a half a dozen church mediation jobs over the years, and they're very, very hard. They're thick, they're tangled, there's there's toxicity. There is, you know, family systems times three to four. And so that prompted me to do more of the prevention work, because because I'm watching schools, you know, who originally did RJ as a discipline alternative, but
David (he/him) 37:10
in many still linear
Ted Lewis 37:11
trying. But but most schools understand that you have to go upstream and do prevention work and community building work and supportive work that's much wider than just reactionary. And so I started applying that to the faith communities, what does it look like to start doing workshops and prevention where to build cultures of apology and forgiveness? And so I have a big side area there and my
David (he/him) 37:41
what all has that look like?
Ted Lewis 37:44
Well put putting up a website that's integrating restorative justice with with practices for faith communities. Doing some workshops, both in person and online, that integrate those traditions with with skill building. The most recent exciting thing is I've partnered with a number of black clergy from the Southside of Chicago, and we're having a restorative church gathering the Monday after the NACRJ conference,
David (he/him) 38:19
and we might as well just shout it out right now. July 7, through nine with a pre conference day on July 6, that ACLJ conference is happening. It's very soon, by the time you're listening to this podcast, might be too late for you to make travel arrangements or your ticket. But if you are available and want to connect with so many restorative justice practitioners around the world of meet Ted, meet me meet so many others who have been featured on this podcast of you can head over to NACA rj.org and find all the information that you need to get there sufficient plug. But um, yeah, I imagine this work. I grew up in church. I've seen the way that church communities deal with conflict and ends and people leaving, right it ends in individuals leaving often but it also looks like groups of people just there's, there's a schism, right and new denominations are started or new churches are started because of in irreconcilable differences. I believe I got that pronunciation. Are there any things that are so fully acknowledging that so much of this work is proactive? Were there and again thinking about you know, confidentiality and things that you're able to share? Were there any stories of you know, the ability to repair harm between either individuals or groups of folks in in church communities and faith based communities that are really salient for you?
Ted Lewis 39:57
One short example that that was small example was I led a grieving circle for about 12 people who left a church because of dysfunction, and leadership tensions and things were just kind of breaking apart. But all 12 of these adults moved out of this church at different stages over about a year long. And then they weren't really connected. And so there was one of them really thought, you know, it'd be really nice if there could be some kind of gathering of these people who left. So I was able to prepare folks and then hold about a four hour grieving circle with a potluck afterwards. And that was really helpful for them to kind of have have the equivalent of like a funeral service. But also to think about, you know, who are we going forward now, without having to carry some of those lonesome hurts?
David (he/him) 41:04
Sometimes, when we are faced with harm, and in this circumstance, right, there is not willingness for people to reconcile between aggrieved parties or parties that are in tension, right, we can still use these practices to meet folks needs for whether belonging needing to acknowledge the harm that happened to them, getting community support and ways forward to have that harm prevented, moving forward, it might not always look like being in community with each other. Moving forward. I think a lot of the times, the I don't know the exact circumstances of this, but like, this happens a lot of the times with abuse, right, where it is not healthy for either party, for them to reconcile and be back together. But, you know, both can move forward in a good way, not even ever having to interact with the others, if they're both getting support in a restorative way from their community members. And so, you know, thank you for sharing that.
Ted Lewis 42:07
Absolutely. I love your phrase going forward. Because when I define what is restorative justice, people think classically, oh, it's about bringing a victim offender together for face to face dialogue, you know, what ends up on Oprah's show? And I say, No, it's It's not about that. It's about helping harming and harmed people to move forward in their lives no matter who they meet with, and explaining that many times, it's not possible or appropriate for harming and harm people of the same pace to come together. Once you redefine restorative work, as people moving forward together and healthy healing matters, then you start to think outside the box, who are the other conversation partners, that could help be part of their encounter moment, you know, that would help them to set some things to rest or to be dignified or validated. And I'm actually going to be part of a panel in Chicago on talking about use of surrogates for sexual harm cases. And we'll spotlight a case I did about five years ago, of both a victimized and offending partner, or first party who contacted our center independent from each other, wanted restorative dialogue in their own journeys. And we're well suited to actually be dyadic partners after a seven month preparation. So I'm gonna I'm going to feature that as a way to really widen them the opportunities for for people to have deep restorative conversations without the possibility of that meeting with their actual case counterparts.
David (he/him) 44:02
Yeah, yeah, it's, again, you know, I appreciate the you highlighting the the seven months that it took to even begin to prepare like for that conversation, and like, seven months happened, and people aren't ready, like, we don't go forward because, like, we don't want to cause more harm when we when we do that. And, you know, there's this immense sense of urgency for folks to resolve conflict and harm, but you know, this process is too urgent to rush, you know, we have to slow down. Thank you for being like for highlighting the example and like the real importance of that. And for those who are going to the conference, make sure you head over to that panel. To learn a little bit more. I am thinking I just want to call back for some folks who maybe haven't listen to this podcast for a long time. Back to an episode where we featured me hunt of hidden water NYC, talking about the way that they have done circles for people who have been impacted by childhood sexual abuse. For a little bit more of a deeper dive on that topic, you know, you've done this work extensively, you know, faith communities, criminal legal system. Some places like an academia, schools, individual incidents of of harm, as serious as sexual violence. It led you to this place in 2015, where, you know, you gave you a definition of restorative justice and lots of different people define restorative justice in different ways and use the framing in different ways. It started a series of conversations at a in partnership with em mu. And I'm curious, you know, what was the genesis of that? And, you know, how has it manifested since what have been some key learnings for you?
Ted Lewis 46:02
Yeah, there were, there were three stages. You got some grant money, and the initial stage was just bringing together some of the thought leaders in the movement for even to ask the question, is restorative justice a social movement, it's worth saying that the word movement can mean multiple things to different people. And when Howard's there use the word movement, 30 years ago, even he was thinking more in terms of like a river that has a movement and a river that gets bigger and bigger when other tributaries come into it. He wasn't thinking of it as movement in the sense of like the abolition movement, the civil rights movement. But eventually, I would say after 2010, it started, new conversations were happening around this, this is not just a program, it's not a service, it's not an intervention, that's, you know, just for isolated things. This has a whole parrot paradigmatic opportunity to change systems on all levels and indigenous traditions. Don't think of it in any way as like a side dish. It's, it's like the air they breathe, it's the values, they live at every level. And so by the time 2015, came around, there was a, there was a heightened sense of restorative justice as, as being re understood as a true social movement with transformative elements. And then the tension is okay, if that's what it really is. What does that mean for re understanding its beginnings? What does that mean for the classic realm of interventions? You know, it raises new kinds of questions that also raise what I call the frontier zones. And the book listening to the movement really comes out of the third stage of em use effort to try to capture what what are those frontiers zones, that show that this is much wider than just a criminal program, you know, for addressing harmful incidents?
David (he/him) 48:17
And, you know, of those, it's funny for me to be having this conversation with you now, already having interviewed many of the contributing authors. And so and having read most of the book already, right, I'm also acknowledging that much of the book was written to three, four years ago at this, right, right. What were some key learnings for you, as you were hearing from all these different voices who had been practicing these ways of being and like these programs in different ways across different sectors, I would say the
Ted Lewis 48:58
primary one was recognizing that communities could be re empowered, and even at some level to be independent, with defining restorative, holistic work in those communities without heavy reliance on traditional systems, traditional social work systems, traditional justice systems. And so the whole concept of hubs, you know, which we see in Oakland, and Chicago and elsewhere, is an example of saying we don't need to be heavily partnered or reliant on on all these traditional systems as if we're thinking in terms of reform. We can do wholesome stuff as community based stakeholders. And so I would say the book kind of starts to reflect some of that push off where you don't have to I envision like traditional systems somehow bending and reforming and partnering, it's more like we're just going to move forward with good, wholesome stuff. And we're really not that interested in waiting for judges and prosecutors and probation officers somehow see the light.
David (he/him) 50:21
Yeah, I've been attributing this quote to Miriam Kaba. And she might have said it in one way. I recently heard like, Mills, Chris, that it was Neal Mills, Christie talked about the idea of like the state has stolen our conflict from us. Right. And when I heard Miriam kava, talk about it was also that like, and we've outsourced community care to social services as well, I think that might be the piece that she's tagged on, in the conversation with Daniel Rhodes, which will air in the coming weeks talking about the way that social work has to change with this kind of paradigm. And conversations with Ethan occur about, you know, the way that criminal legal system is engaged in dealing with inter communal violence, like, there are myriad ways that we as community members can deal with these things without having to engage those stakeholders. And in my understanding of restorative justice work, because I came into this work, really in 2014. Like, just like, around the time when you and many others who had been doing this work for a long time, like we're starting to center, more community driven ways of being and doing this work like that has just been my orientation to all of this. And shout out to Sheryl and ora and payment, Tomas and Miriam and like all the other teachers who have been, who helped me get to that space. What has been the impact of these conversations that you've seen across practitioners, people who have been doing this work? Maybe in more system aligned ways over the years in response to both the conversations and the book as it's come out? Well, I
Ted Lewis 52:15
think this is the subtitle have both the the phrase opportunities and challenges,
David (he/him) 52:25
growth and new child growth and essays on youth growth, okay,
Ted Lewis 52:28
growth and new challenges. I think at one point, we had a working title that showed opportunities and challenges. And I think we're still in that zone, where the recent growth has has been amazing and wonderful. But you know, that whenever there's wider, faster growth, it creates unforeseen challenges around how is all this holding together? And what are the continuity elements? So being connected to NAC or J, I'm really mindful that there are still conversations that are perennial around what what are the common denominators or common roots when, when there's that much community empowerment, and you could say, autonomy. Which is, in my mind a good direction, because I'm a really big fan of local localized power, rather than local efforts having to be beholden to something beyond the local realm. It brings a new challenge. How does it all hold together? You know, in New Zealand, and Canada, and Belgium, they have systems that sort of integrate everything together, at least, at least at a criminal level, that that creates standards continuities, model replication. We don't quite have that in the United States, because we sort of prize experimental being experimental with with new ventures. So I probably could say a little more, but I'll just summarize it by saying, for every positive growth, we're still seeing new challenges for holding things together.
Ted Lewis 54:49
I think one thing that surprised me if I was able to sort of compare a perspective now from even 10 years ago, is See the growth of the circle model. 10 years ago, I would have thought more in terms of okay, there's different dialogue models, and they all kind of have their strengths and limits and, and here's how they kind of balanced with each other. And I primarily train and in use conference model more than circle model. But I have seen an assumption that the circle model is the dominant model for restorative dialogue work, because it's so versatile, and it covers all prevention and intervention and can adapt in all sorts of community ways. The surprising thing for me is that I don't see enough conversation around strengths and limits of models. And I've done a little bit of workshop work on this very topic. Because if we started practitioners are not aware of strengths and limits of the model they use. And they kind of make the assumption that this model is people who the only way people get what I call model loyalty is that's primarily how they're trained. And in their avenue of learning. restorative work is based on a model that that eventually creates new challenges around the growth and spread.
David (he/him) 56:27
Yeah, and I think, speaking to circles really specifically over the last two years, in speaking about pandemic times, although we have done things on zoom that are circle, like, none of those things are actually circles, in my view, right. And so you are having to employ a conferencing model, or comforting conferencing methodology practice. Because you're not in that physical space with people. And like, there are other nuances as well. But I think speaking from my training perspective, is what we do at amplify RJ, it is much more about teaching people, the underlying framework of those restorative questions and holding space for people in whatever way that manifests, right? Because there is a script for a circle that you can do, there is a script for a, or an outline for a conferencing thing that you can do. But if that is not what is best conducive to your situation, like that's probably not what you should do, whether that is culturally, right, people are not going to be culturally responsive or receptive to a circle or you know, or the conferencing model. You have to be adaptable. And thank you so much for highlighting that, you know, these conversations can happen in multiple ways these dialogues can happen in multiple ways. The other way that we often frame our work at amplifier j is counter to the elements of white supremacy culture that Tim Oaken outlined and like that one right way of doing things. There are multiple ways of doing even circle work, even restorative work, it doesn't just have to be that circle model, which was the model that I was brought up in, right. But there are definitely different ways to navigate conflict, navigate harm, build, maintain repair. Relationships. Yeah. Thank you. Thank you so much for that.
Ted Lewis 58:26
Yeah, let me add one more piece to the same topic. I'm really thankful that people are finding their they're trusting their own intuitions to do what I call blended models. And the last time I did a workshop on circle conference, strengths and limits, I found I was getting people to just talk out of their experiences. Most most of the participants were already comfortable with blending aspects from both models that they kind of drew from and I think that's a wonderful thing. I do that too, when I'm working with larger groups. And so I'll do opening and closing go arounds. But in the middle, I'll facilitate a little more like a conference, which for me is actually less scripted. In the way I do facilitation, and ultimately, the the strength that conference conferencing has over circling is the realm of response. That's the dyadic magic, you know, when people can can respond either by echoing what they've heard or responding from the heart back and if circle set up that traditional, you know, go around, speak your truth, speak your thoughts, speak your perspective.
David (he/him) 59:51
And wait for the talking piece to come around.
Ted Lewis 59:52
It can really mute the power of direct response. And so if it's a peacemaking circle, at least, more narrowly, without a dimension of response between the most harming and harmed people present, they can get muted out. So that those are some pieces I'm really mindful of from the kind of work that I do.
David (he/him) 1:00:17
I know that there is a attention for me. And this is something that I've had to navigate as someone who grew up in this work with circle being the thing, right? Also preserving like, Excuse me, I'll say, the sanctity of circle process, right. And that's not always possible in the spaces that you're in. And being okay with blending that to serve the needs of the people that you are, that you're in dialogue with, that you are helping to navigate their conflict in harm is important. It doesn't have to be like this pure. This is the only way that things can be we've covered a lot. And I want to make sure that we get to all the questions that everyone answers when they come on the podcast. But before we do, is there anything else that you want to shout out about the book?
Ted Lewis 1:01:10
Well, it's gonna be 40% off at Chicago, we hope to have copies for sale there. And we'll also have fliers I think for anyone who's listening now it's it's a, it's a great book that gives the foundation of indigenous principles. They're strong themes of addressing race relations all through the book. It gives some of those frontiers zones where restorative justice is applied to brand new areas such as Earthcare, and environmental justice...
David (he/him) 1:01:47
Which is an episode that we already ran featuring Valerie Serrels just because it was Earth Day, and we wanted to run with it ahead. So you can already go back and listen to that episode, and then go read the chapter in the book. But yes, covering so many aspects, so many frontiers, so many horizons, I interrupted, is there anything? Oh, that's fine.
Ted Lewis 1:02:08
It's just a great book to sort of benchmark both growth and challenges of this time we're in right now.
David (he/him) 1:02:17
Beautiful. All right. So the questions that everyone answers when they come on the podcast, without knowing it, you've already answered one of them when you gave your definition of restorative justice. So I'm not going to ask you that. But what I am going to ask you is, as you've been doing this work, what's been an oh, shit moment, a mistake, or something that like you would do differently now? Like you're looking back? And like, How can I do that? And what did you learn from it?
Ted Lewis 1:02:41
Yeah, wow, that's, that's, that's a toughy. Because I have lived through those moments as a practitioner. And before I give an anecdote. When Howard Zehr, way back came up with a 10, signposts of restorative justice, like these are the 10 most important principles that sort of guide our work. The last one was to address unintended consequences. Meaning that when things don't go well, when process choices were poorly formed, that you go to parties with humility, and still try to dignify your relationship and communication with them. And I have had to do that now. And then over the years, it's really hard to admit like I could have made a much better process choice. But one one that really stands out for me in several cases is that when I've gotten involved with shuttled communications, where it's not appropriate for parties to come together, either too soon, but they're wanting to communicate things, either by writing or by giving permission. I, I have found myself in in some really difficult gray areas, about representing the words of one party to another,
David (he/him) 1:04:05
projecting your perspective onto their words,
Ted Lewis 1:04:07
some of that comes through the telephone game, but even even in shuttling a written piece. I'm aware of the limits of that because there's not that energetic dimension you get, you know, like when an animal is near you, and you're reading each other. You don't get that from just a written piece. And there have been times where some shuttle communications lead this some unintentional consequences, maybe even some re victimization. And each time I catch myself around, wow, there really are limits to a process where you're helping people to be empowered to say and hear what they really need to say in here.
David (he/him) 1:04:52
When you encounter those things, you know, you talked about the need to acknowledge the The unintended consequences of your actions, how do you best prevent that going forward? Because like shuttle communications, like is continues to be a part of practice, when we are dealing with people who are not at a place where they can be in the same space together. How do you prevent that harm from happening to the best of your ability,
Ted Lewis 1:05:21
I think the most practical way, and I I'm even kicking myself for not doing this better. And something that that was about a month ago, is that first, you're never facilitating heavy duty things alone, you're always partnered up with a team of a co facilitators to three, four of you. And then practically, if you have an intuition that you're you're entering a sensitive zone of shuttled communications, that you're really pre briefing with your facilitator team, around? Are we really doing the best we can here? Are we aware of some risks? Could we be could we set some better boundaries? Could we lower some expectations, and just talk that through? Because without that talking through, it's easy to kind of do things just because you're eager for the process to move forward? So taking the time to pre brief is probably the best option.
David (he/him) 1:06:26
Yeah, thank you for that learning. This one is challenging in a different way. You get to sit in circle, with four people dead or alive. Who are they? And what is the one question you asked that circle?
Ted Lewis 1:06:44
Well, the first thing that came to my mind is actually a friend of mine who lives on Pine Ridge. He's a Lakota man who comes from the Red Cloud tribe clan. He's been a friend of mine, since the very year that I first was introduced to restorative work, we used to do furniture, restoration work together in a shop, and we got to know each other, and we still keep in touch. I'd love to be in a circle with him and his wife, and maybe a couple other people, they might choose to talk about the impacts of the pandemic, on the reservation.
David (he/him) 1:07:26
As you've been sharing, you dropped so many gems, what is one thing, maybe it's a mantra, and maybe it's an affirmation, and maybe it's a key learning that you want to make sure everyone listening to the podcast knows.
Ted Lewis 1:07:41
I think I'd like to just reframe the, the protest line, No justice, no peace. I've thought a lot about what that means in our society. And I actually have a whole article on it that tries to come at it from a restorative perspective. But one of the things that has been meaningful to me that kind of pulls pulls us back into themes throughout our whole podcast here is that how you define justice is really vital in that phrase. Because if you are thinking in terms of traditional justice, as necessary to bring about peace, you are basically operating in a contest, you have paradigm, a framework where there tends to be Win, lose and in a court context, and we're frustrated if someone gets acquitted. And so our concept of justice, I'm afraid, in my mind, generally leans toward a traditional understanding of justice, as you know, bringing truth and then bring it bringing a punitive outcome. If you redefine justice in a restorative manner, it actually builds a different way of thinking about the peace that comes after. And I would really suggest that if if we understand that phrase as deep relationship building with respect and responsibility, you know, those three r's that are so vital to any kind of justice process that that is is going to build a more lasting peace on any level. So that's that's kind of what I like to leave folks to chew over.
David (he/him) 1:09:36
Yeah. I'm sitting in deep reflection with that for a couple reasons. One, because the line that follows up No justice, no peace in a lot of the protests I've been at is no racist police. Right. And that like that can III. And like, you know, we're coming back to that, that issue which is, you know, very present where we're at. And that's like both no racist individuals who are embodying who are like fulfilling that role, but like, what does it look like to transform that institution or transform the conditions under which that institution of policing like has to exist? And you know, what you're talking about is like the definition of peace and the definition of justice, like we've got to get really clear about and I'm not asking people to like, and I don't think you're asking people either to like, change what you say at protests, but like, really be intentional about like, yes, it's a catchy slogan, but like, what is it that we're actually working towards? deep reflection about that? I would love to get a link to that article as well. How and where can people support you and your work in the ways that you want to be supported?
Ted Lewis 1:10:53
Financially, I mean, a big part of my work, I feel like is pro bono.
Ted Lewis 1:11:00
And then, of course, a lot of my training in workshop where, you know, I do try to make a living by by it, but I'm not salaried with my center. And I feel a calling to this work. So I tend to, I tend to say yes to things where I should probably be a little more measured, if it's going to demand a lot of my time without any pay. So people can just just support in any any way they're led to.
David (he/him) 1:11:35
Yeah, I mean, so like, part of that looks like book sales. But like, that's not like a big chunk of it. Like, is there a specific place that people should go? Is it the center's site where it's make a donation? Or is it somewhere else?
Ted Lewis 1:11:47
I see. Yeah, our University of Minnesota Duluth site has a place for donation. And that money would support the amount of pro bono frontier work we're doing with things like sexual assault or, or community building, or pulling regional folks together for learning. We don't have a budget for most of this stuff. And so that would be wonderful.
David (he/him) 1:12:18
Beautiful, and we'll make sure to link all of that in the show notes. Thank you so much, Ted, for the stories. He experiences, the gems of wisdom that you've dropped anything else you want to leave the people
Ted Lewis 1:12:29
with? No, this is great. I I've thoroughly enjoyed just getting to know you through how you talk and ask questions. So that's been a neat plus here for me today.
David (he/him) 1:12:38
Oh, well, you know, we're gonna get to meet and dialogue a little bit more in Chicago. Last minute plug for the conference there. But for everyone else listening. You know, I hope you've enjoyed this conversation with Ted learned a lot. I sure have. We'll be back with another conversation of someone living this restorative justice Life next week. Until then, take care.
Elyse (she/her) 1:13:01
Thank you, Ted. This is Elise, your producer. And here are some of my thoughts on this episode. One thing that really stood out to me was the fact that this episode will be called listening to the movement. This title is very specific, because although it is also the name of the chapter that he wrote in the book that you can find in our show notes below. It also really identifies some of the key points of this episode. Listening to the movement means so many different things. I when I hear that statement, I think of listening to other people who are doing this work, which means restorative justice, bro transformative justice work, as well as racial justice work, social justice, work, disability, justice, work, so many different types of justice, that are currently being worked on in so many different ways. And what I think listening to the move it means to me is listening to other people who are doing similar types of work and also realizing our common goals. I think oftentimes people have very different approaches to justice. But keeping in mind that we are all fighting for the liberation and equality of all that can help unify our approaches, even if we are using very different methodology. Another thing that kind of relates listening to the movement was when Ted Lewis said, What does no justice no peace truly mean? And I think we often hear this when we're thinking about movements. But can we visualize that? Can we see what that means in practice? Can you have justice without peace? And can you have peace without justice? If the answer is no, then how can we create a more peaceful society, a more justice oriented society. As always, thank you so much for listening. And if you want some more ideas and more answers to these open ended questions, make sure to check out all of our other podcast episodes where we ask so many different restorative justice practitioners about their thoughts on restorative justice. So, as always, thank you so much for listening, and I'll talk to you next week.
David (he/him) 1:15:05
Like what you heard, please subscribe, rate review and share this podcast on whatever platform you're using right now. Or if you're old school, tell a friend. It really helps us further amplify this work. You can also support us by following us on our social platforms, signing up for our email list, signing up for a community gathering, workshop, or course, so many options, links to everything in the show notes or on our website, amplify rj.com Thanks so much for listening. We'll talk to you next week.
David (he/him) 54:19
David (he/him) 54:27
This, this might be a retread of a question that I already asked him. So the response might be similar. But what has surprised you the most both? I'm not thinking so much from the content, but from the impact that you've seen of this book and this project over the last few years.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai