This Restorative Justice Life

101. Restorative Justice in Prison Systems & Checking Your Own Bias as a Practitioner w/ Crystal Catalan

October 27, 2022 David Ryan Castro-Harris
This Restorative Justice Life
101. Restorative Justice in Prison Systems & Checking Your Own Bias as a Practitioner w/ Crystal Catalan
Show Notes Transcript

Crystal Catalan serves as the Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Presentation High School in San Jose, CA. She has degrees from University of San Diego and Eastern University, and served as a missioner with Cabrini Mission Corps in New York, the Philippines, Swaziland, and Radnor, PA at Cabrini University. Crystal has served as a jail minister for over 10 years and is pursuing her MA in Pastoral Ministry with an emphasis in Restorative Justice and Chaplaincy at Santa Clara University.

Check out our LIVE Events

Send us feedback at

Join our Mighty Networks platform to connect with other people doing this work!

Rep Amplify RJ Merch 

You can connect with Amplify RJ:
Email list, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Website, Reading list, YouTube, and TikTok!

SUPPORT by sharing this podcast, leaving a rating or review, or make a tax-deductible DONATION to help us sustain and grow this movement

Support the show

Support the show

David (he/him): Crystal, welcome to this restorative justice life. Who are you? 

Crystal (she/her): I am Crystal Grace Catalan, a daughter of Gloria and Elmer, sister to Cheryl, and tita ninang to my niece Ila.

David (he/him): Mm-hmm. Who are you? 

I am a faithful Catholic, brown-skinned Filipino American. Grateful for my ancestors and every opportunity I've had to return back to the Philippines and connect with my roots. 

David (he/him): Who are you? 

Crystal (she/her): I am an educator, a restorative justice practitioner, a lay chaplain at our local correctional facility.

A believer that we are all works in progress and that we can be better. 

David (he/him): Who are you? 

Crystal (she/her): I'm someone who practices hot yoga almost on the daily and knows that I need this or some other form of exercise in order to center myself and stay grounded. 

David (he/him): Who are you? 

Crystal (she/her): I am someone who thrives on connection and values the importance of relationship building and am motivated by peace building and justice.

David (he/him): Who are you? 

Crystal (she/her): I'm someone who values freedom, internal and external, and I owe it to the Cabrini Sisters for supporting me in my prayerful discernment, asking questions, and not always finding the answers. 

David (he/him): Hmm, and finally, for now, who are you? 

Crystal (she/her): I'm someone who listens to podcasts and reads books on restorative justice, ethnic studies, indigenous history of Filipinos, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and will hopefully write a book someday.

David (he/him): Mm. All right. Well, you know, there's so many intersections of who you are that you shared. We're gonna get into all of those and more right after this. Oh my goodness, Crystal, it is so good to be with you. you know, we, this is the second time that we've scheduled, No, no, no judgment.

I'm really glad that Yes, we've able, we've been able to make this time. Thank you for attending to your community needs on our initial time that we recorded. But all that is say I'm just really pumped to have this conversation. We connected, Earlier this year, after an event that, we put on and you were like, Yo, restorative justice.

Like, Oh, so Filipino Americans doing restorative justice work. Like, hey, like, let's talk about it. and you know, I was really intrigued and you've done a plethora of restorative justice work formally, but you know, I know that this work started for you before you even knew the words restorative justice.

And so in your own words, how did this journey get started? 

Crystal (she/her): Yeah. first of all, thanks for having me here. really excited to have this conversation with you. but yeah, you're absolutely right. Like I never really heard of the phrase restorative justice. Probably not until after I came, back from my time serving abroad as a missioner in the Philippines.

So probably not until 2012, is when like, I really resonated with the words restorative justice and really reflected on what that meant and was really like, oh my gosh, I, that's the work that I've been doing for the past, so years. And so, kind of going back when I lived in New York, that was probably between 2000.

2009, 2010, I was serving as a missioner with Cabrini Mission Corps. So it's a lay volunteer program that worked alongside the missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. kind of like Jesuit Volunteer Corps or any other volunteer organizations out there. And I had my first experience of serving at Rikers Island in New York.

and I did a prayer service with Sister Ellen, who was a sister of Mercy. and I got connected to her because when I learned that I was going to be serving abroad in the Philippines for two years doing Missioner work, with the sisters, I learned that part of that work was gonna be doing jail ministry.

Crystal (she/her): So making visits to our brothers and sisters who are incarcerated, spending time with them, and just hearing more of their stories. And so, Prior to that I was working sales and marketing. I had no experience doing that. and so I was like, Well, if I'm going to enter into this space, I need to at least have some type of experience.

So Sister Ellen was like, Hey, Crystal, like come along. So there I was like in New York and I remember taking like so many bus lines to get to Riker's Island. did all my research and as soon as I like stepped foot in there, first of all I was like, Oh my gosh, like I'm here. I'm already privileged to be in this space.

I didn't have, that much paperwork to go through because Sister Ellen really just hooked it up and I was able to just enter into there. and so we had a communion service there and I just remember one of the women telling me, I don't know why I'm saying this Crystal, but I feel like I'm gonna see you again.

And in that moment, I was like, yes. And it wasn't like, Oh, I see myself as being incarcerated with you or anything like that, but more so I saw it like, yes, this is the work that I feel really called to. And it was just those moments of being in circle, hearing one another's stories, sitting through the tears, sitting through the laughter.

just really spending time with one another. And I was like, Yeah, these are the spaces where I feel called to facilitate. and. It was in that moment that I was like, Yes, I think that I will be here with you as well. and so I remember talking with Sister Ellen after the experience and then like, I got on the bus and just like was reflecting on all the things and I was like, Yes.

I, I was reflecting on Sister Helen Peron's comments when she would say that we are more than the worst things we have ever done. 

David (he/him): Mm-hmm.

and just the importance of dialogue and having space for each person regardless of who they are and what they have done is something that just really resonated with me in that moment.

and I always go back to that is kind of like my foundation of restorative justice, my connection and belief in the human dignity of each person. And seeing how instrumental facilitating circles and how circles are so instrumental in creating spaces for that dialogue. So, 

David (he/him): Yeah, I, I know there's like, I, I struggle, when people are telling these stories like, Oh yeah, but this, Oh, yeah, but this, Oh yeah, but this, you know, in this circle way, but like, also, this is the podcast and I want to make sure that we're able to, like follow up on some of the things that you shared.

I'm really curious about, you know, that first experience that you had with Sister Ellen and, and the other sisters, in prison, Right? So that was a community service. Did you also have a circle in that space? 

Crystal (she/her): Yeah, so we had circle, and it was really moment of reflection check in, right? Like, how are we doing?

How are we going to honor one another in this space? How can we support each other? and what has been coming up for them in the past week or so? So, yeah. And, and also being new into that space and like I had never, I don't think prior to that experience, I really was able to fully enter into a circle experience.

Like, sure, I've been on retreats or like other meetings, but nothing as sacred as that space. and that was then something that I was like, I wanna continue emulating this in other areas that I'm in. 

David (he/him): Yeah. And I love what you shared there, right? It was check in, what do you need? Right. And Cheryl Graves episode number one on this podcast.

one of the, one of my OGs in this work often like, talks about how, you know, restorative justice can be reduced down to, and it's like most simple form of like, how are you? Right? To the depth of that question and like, what do you need? Right. Yeah. And that framework of questioning, and holding space for someone like allows us to tap into so much.

David (he/him): And then of course there are, Like informal ways that you can do check-ins like that. And they're really formal, formal ways of structuring those kinds of interactions. But like the way that you walk into those interactions, if you hold that with, reverence or the, the sacred process of, you know, holding space for someone, you know, passing your invisible talking stick or you know, the visible, talking piece around, to hold space like that is the core of this work.

And, you know, you felt that, in that moment so deeply and you wanted to learn more. Where did that take you to next? 

Crystal (she/her): Yeah, so after that moment, I actually moved back to San Jose, probably in, I think like 2013, was still really involved in jail ministry.

Prior to that, I was leading restorative justice in the Philippines. So that experience from New York sent me to the Philippines and I started my own restorative circles, in City Jail. I actually started teaming up with some of the artists out there and we did restorative justice circles alongside different art activities as well.

and I really just fell in love with the work that I was doing. I then moved back to San Jose in 2013, and started doing jail ministry out here too. and that was then when I really learned more about restorative justice and what it really was, and that's when it really clicked for me, like, The work that I was doing is restorative justice.

and so then I started, having these discussions at my school with my students, with my teachers, that I was working with. And then I started continuing my own further studies in restorative justice. 

David (he/him): Yeah. Yeah. So I mean, you talked about, like you said, like. What is restorative justice like? For real?

For real. And like, I wanna like make sure that folks know like, yes, there's formal education, you can go get your master's in conflict transformation where MA and restorative justice at Eastern Mennonite University, Center for Justice and Peace Building. Or you can, you know, certificate programs, wherever they are.

And like the work that you're doing, holding space, making art, helping people tell their stories and meet their needs within those contexts is restorative justice. Yeah. Is restorative work, even if you're not necessarily putting those formal labels on it. I'm curious if you could tell a little bit more about like, the context of, you know, that the, that artwork, that community work, before we move back into like, hey, what you're doing within the context of schools.

Crystal (she/her): Yeah. So some of the work that I did, in the jails alongside one of the local artists was giving them a check-in question, For instance, just. Just saying like, How are you doing? Where are you today?

And then the artist would alongside just say, Okay, here are some markers, here are some pastels, here's some crayons. draw a picture of how you're feeling. Right. So some of the, CICL we would call them in the Philippines, so children in conflict with the law. Some of them had never had access to even using markers, crayons, pastels.

And we gave them some really cool paper to use and just gave them some space to express themselves with art. and then so they would take time to do that and then eventually, we would go around and share. So really using the same elements of circle, but giving different avenues for them to express themselves.

David (he/him): Yeah. What was the impact of that?

Crystal (she/her): I think it was huge, in the sense that we kept it going for the next few sessions. So like the next session, one of the rounds that we went around was draw a picture of how you see yourself. and then with that follow up question, each of the c i c just went around and said, This is how I saw myself.

Whether it was really like a self portrait or whether it was a feeling that they had, this was how they saw themselves. And then the next round was something along the lines of where do you want to be when you're able to be released? Things like that. 

David (he/him): Yeah, I'm. Reminded of the words of -, and I don't think I've dropped his name on the podcast very, very recently, but you know, with his framework of somatic abolitionism, like really listening to your body and looking into practices that help you move through conflicts, trauma, all these things.

Go look up my grandmother's hands if you need more on risks. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. But he often says like, everything can be a somatic elicitation. Right? Everything can be a response. it can be something that like activates something within you if you pay enough attention, right? Mm-hmm. , and, you know, with the ethos of like this restorative justice life, not just being about, Oh, and you did this restorative justice program in jails, or you did this restorative justice program in schools.

I'm really. I, I, I appreciate that example of like, you know, we can take this moment, of sharing art, right? To honor each other's stories, Right. See each other for who we are and maybe like, try to meet needs in that process. and if we take the time and intention to have that forefront of our mind as we navigate daily activities, like, I'm not saying that everything is, everything can be a restorative moment.

no, I actually think that that is what I am saying, right? Yeah. If you, if you take in that, if you, if you apply that, attention and intention to, to those interactions, like you can make these restorative moments, these moments where people feel seen, acknowledged, valued, in, in a lot of different circumstances.

David (he/him): Art making is one very beautiful way that that can be done. But again, just highlighting like, Quote unquote, formal restorative processes. Circles are, are great and there are so many other ways that this work lives and breeds in in day to day moments. 

Crystal (she/her): Yes, a hundred percent yes to all those things. right in front of me in my office, I have, Howard, there's 10 ways to Live Restoratively.

I love those 10 things, like those 10 elements so much because sometimes I think that, community or society really sees restorative justice to be used in the context of the criminal justice system or only in schools. And I'm like, no, restorative justice is just a way to live and a way that we can really apply, healthy living and healthy relationships for anybody regardless of context.

and so I really love restorative justice because it comes down to relationships. It's always about relationships and for me, that's my focus. Like I believe that in order for this world to be better because I want this world to be better, that we need to learn how to communicate. We need to learn how to listen to one another and be able to have healthy dialogue with each other.

Crystal (she/her): And I think RJ is really one of the ways that we can practice that to be in better community. 

David (he/him): Yeah, absolutely. And you know, as much as I have looked into restorative work, like there. I, I've found people who do this work in ways that like, I don't fully appreciate and I think are like actively harmful, and that there are very many ways that we can approach, like people can on ramp onto restorative ways of being.

And, it, it's application is massive. I, as you were talking, I just looked up that, that list, and I don't think I had come across this before, but it's a blog post on Eastern Mennonite University's, website. And I think it might be worth just recapping the list because they're pretty short. number one of Howard, there's ways to live restoratively, take relationships seriously, envisioning yourself as an interconnected web of people, institutions, and environment, right?

Yeah. Number two, try to be aware of the impact potential as well as actual of your actions on others and on the environment. Number three, when your actions negatively impact others, Take responsibility by acknowledging and seeking to repair the harm even when you could probably get away with avoiding or denying it.

Number four, treat everyone respectfully, even though you don't expect to encounter them again, even those you don't feel deserve it, even those who have harmed or offended you or others. Number five, involve those affected by a decision as much as possible in the decision making process. Number six, view the conflicts and harm in your life as opportunities.

Love that. Number seven, listen deeply and compassionately to others. Seeking to understand even if you don't agree with them, think about who you want to be in the latter situation rather than just being right. Number eight, engage with dialogue with others even when what is being said is difficult. Remaining open to learning from them.

And the encounter. Number nine, be cautious about imposing your quote, truth unquote and views on other people in their situations. And number 10, sensitively confront everyday injustices, including sexism, racism, classism. And he goes on to say, Welcome any other suggestions and comments to these 10. And you know, we can spend a whole semester like breaking down each of each of these things.

But you know, when that is the framework, nothing about that says like, All right, circle up, where's your centerpiece? What are your values? What are our community agreements like, tell me the meaning of your talking and like, what are our agreements moving forward? Right? Like this, and I'm not belittling the circle process, right?

Crystal (she/her): Yeah, totally. 

David (he/him): That's beautiful. But like, this is what we're talking about, and when these are at the core of how you move through the world, you are living this restorative justice life. 

Crystal (she/her): Absolutely. And it, I love it also because it's not just relationships with one another, but it also brings in our relationship with the environment.

Mm-hmm. . And I love that because it really brings us to the indigenous roots of restorative justice, and bringing us back to connecting with land, understanding the impacts that our actions have on the environment that we're surrounded by as well.

David (he/him): Yeah, absolutely. And so as you moved from back from the Philippines to, Bay Area, correct?

Crystal (she/her): Mm-hmm. Yeah. 

David (he/him): Back to the Bay Area, you started to do work in schools, and I'm curious, and as well as like continuing like, prison ministry, but what did the, transition into schools with this mindset? Look like for you? 

Crystal (she/her): Yeah, so I mean, even throughout some of the challenges or many of the challenges that Covid presented us, communities have been affected.

Our school community was affected, because we weren't seeing each other. We weren't able to relate to one another in person. doing things virtually was like, you know, it was a good backup, but it was not how we have been called to be in community with each other, seeing everyone every day and everything much like other, you know, the whole world in, in some ways.

so for us, restorative justice looked like rebuilding through community time. So learning how to have healthy communication with each other. learning how to have challenging discussions with each other. spending time with one another and doing exactly what, how. Doing exactly how, circle practice circle practices begin essentially by doing check-ins with each other.

Crystal (she/her): So how are you doing today and how can I support you today? So really thinking about some of those basic questions and just building on them. 

David (he/him): Yeah. As you were thinking about, I guess like did the school already have those practices in place or is that something that like you were bringing in and like how did you introduce them?

Crystal (she/her): Yeah, so I would say that, really prior to Covid really taking over so many parts of our life here at school, prior to that, I had begun really planting the seeds of some RJ work, but not necessarily calling it restorative justice. Again, I think that our society, has convoluted what restorative justice truly is.

So really I've been laying down the foundations of, healthy communication, learning how to dialogue with one another, and how to have challenging conversations too. So we had been planting some of these seeds as we're trying to build community with one another as well. 

David (he/him): Yeah. And so even though you're not using the word restorative justice explicitly, right, These restorative ways of being can be shared, had, did you experience resistance to like.

What you were asking people to do, like stepping into this more relationship driven way of being, Because I know like oftentimes people when you're saying like, Oh, we're trying to implement restorative justice. Lots of people's like antennas go up like, Oh, what's this? This is new. Like, I've heard that this doesn't work.

I heard that this is like soft on discipline, et cetera, et cetera. Like all the, But when you like introduced it, not explicitly using those words, what, what, if any, resistance were you met with? 

Crystal (she/her): I think some of the cool. Parts of this work that I've been leading is that I've had a DEI team, so a diversity, equity and inclusion team that focuses on what are some of the best ways that we can continue to build community here at my school. Mm-hmm. , right?

So I use community in there, even though DEI does not have a C in there. But, restorative justice is definitely a part of it. And I would say the resistance was not necessarily resistance resistance, but it was like, tell me more about restorative justice. How does this fit into the work that we are doing here and the mission and vision of our school?

So working at a Catholic school, we are really, focused on Catholic social teaching, which has its roots in really recognizing the inherent dignity of each human person. 

David (he/him): Mm-hmm. 

Crystal (she/her): And so when we're looking at that, Restorative justice just fits right into that. really valuing each member of our community and trying to ensure that any harms that have taken place are not repeated again.

David (he/him): Yeah. And I think when we think about the quote unquote implementation of restorative justice and introducing these frameworks to different communities, like it is really helpful to use the preexisting language or like cultural touchstones that that community has. So like within your Catholic context, right?

You know, Catholic social teachings, like, you know, if I'm pulling back from my, like, foundations of social justice course in like a grad school when I was getting my quote unquote message and social justice at Loyola, which is a Jesuit school, right? Like the, the inherent dignity of all humans is, is super important.

And then when I think about like, oh, the seven core assumptions of restorative justice as identified by KPR and Carol and Boys Watson, number one is like, you know, At their core, like all humans are good, wise and powerful, right? And are the therefore worthy of, of respect, of dignity, all these things.

And so like use whatever language you can to communicate these ideas that will resonate with the community. how is that work gone? Because I know like within the framework of dei, right? people think it's about, you know, diversity and how do we thimnk. Like how do we bring people from quote unquote diverse, marginalized backgrounds into this, white dominant, white dominated space in this system structure that is rooted in characteristics of white supremacy culture.

and then like, is restorative justice just the thing that we do to like address conflict and harm? No. Right. You already talked about how it's a community building thing, but how have you helped folks tease out the differences between DEI and rj? and how has that, how has that been? What has, what implemented impacting your community?

Crystal (she/her): Yeah, so even just looking at restorative justice at its bare minimum, like tier one building community and relationships. and I would say that that is really where my focus has been. sure there have been, moments of harm that have taken place, and so I'll have restorative conversations, with teachers, with students, with whoever, with regards to rj, but in relationship to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Diversity, like, Right. Looking at who is here, who are the identities that are part of my school equity, what are the policies and practices that my school has that the community has that may not or may be equitable. And then I, the inclusive part, So is everyone feeling included? Are there areas where others feel excluded and why?

And I think that just by defining DEI separate. From what restorative justice is, it's really important. RJ is a way that we can really build on making the connections between dei. So looking at relationships, focusing on, okay, if we're looking at diversity, yes, there are a number of identities that are present at my school.

So how can we build relationships across those differences, across those similarities as well? where can we find relationships in the I part in inclusivity, right? Schools, they thrive on relationships, in my opinion. and that's really what makes my community the special community it is. And, but if we are not able to be in right relationship with one another, if we're not able to recognize the inherent dignity of one another, then that's what tells me we have some work to do.

David (he/him): Yeah. You know, no community is a perfect embodiment of restorative values all the times, even those communities. Like, I'm gonna frame this in the framework of a school, there are limits to like what restorative justice can look like within the, I'll say like the boxes, squares of, you know, institutional schooling, right?

Bringing these circle ways into these institutions. sometimes, like sometimes you butt heads. What are the points of tension that have come up over the years and how have you, tried to navigate those within the context of your community? 

Crystal (she/her): Yeah, I think some of the points in tension of tension are, people may say things to one another that they don't think are offensive, but they're offensive, right?

And so, like we can look at microaggressions and healthy ways of communicating to one another. And I would say that that's primarily been, one of the challenges that I have faced. and reflecting on some of the co restorative conversations that I've had, it's really had to be like a. Hey, so if someone says something like this to you, how would you feel?

Why might that person have felt the way that they did after you said what you said? Things like that. So really following restorative justice, principles in terms of conversation and addressing conflict in that way has been something that has come across, my experience as of late. really again, having, coming back from being, in distance learning for so long, when we're coming together in community, we need to learn how to be in community again.

and part of that is how to talk to one another and how to hold space for each other as well. 

David (he/him): When you're introducing frameworks of restorative justice as a way to navigate these challenges, people. So feedback that I often get is like, Oh, what if the person's unwilling to, Participate in that process?

Or what if they're like denying their responsibility, right? Like, oh, I didn't mean it, it was just a joke. Why are they so sensitive? Right? How does a restorative conversation with that person before you bring the two people together, help them shift? Right. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. And then you have to like navigate the conversation in other ways.

But like, what is, I don't, I'm not asking for like a specific example of a person, but like how do you navigate, that that process when someone like is not understanding the impact that their actions are or unwilling to take responsibility. 

Crystal (she/her): Yeah. That takes time. That totally takes time because that's a huge part of restorative justice.

In order for restorative justice to follow through, that person who caused the harm needs to take responsibility.

David (he/him): Mm-hmm.

Crystal (she/her): If that's not there, I cannot continue a restorative justice process with them. As simple as that, which is really hard. and that also means that it's, it is more time because I need to work a little bit more with that person to get to the point where they can accept responsibility and then be held accountable for that work, or what was done.

so in the event where someone is unable to take responsibility, either one, it'll take more time or, and I'll have to work with them through it. or two, we can't go that route. 

David (he/him): And then what's the alternative? And like, and this is like the limits of like restorative justice in these institutions, but like, what is, like, if we can't go that route, then what do we do?

Because there, in my mind that options are like being permissive or neglectful and ignoring the problem. Because like we just have limited time in the structure of school days and contract hours or you know, time that some you have the ability to be with somebody on campus or like be super punitive.

Not even super punitive, but like, just be punitive about it because like those are the options. So like how does that happen? 

Crystal (she/her): when I am working with a student or any other member who has, caused an offense or caused any harm onto another individual or groups of individuals, it's really important in that conversation that I focus on the relat.

That has been broken. so yes, maybe in some cases, the policy was broken, right? We have a culture of inclusion policy. We have a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion that we really hold all of our community members accountable to. So it's like, okay, that policy, that practice was broken, and yet at the same time, the relationship between you and that other student or groups of students was also broken.

And so when I'm working with our students in that sense, that's something that I really want to emphasize. It's like, okay, you broke a policy that we have here at Pres and also at the same. We severed a relationship here, so we need to make that relationship better and we need to make it right. So what does that look like?

David (he/him): When you say accountable and like, we will hold them accountable?

I'm, accountability is a, is a word that often, like, has my antennas go up because in some situations, right, accountability can be like the person takes responsibility, changes their behavior accordingly, gets support for making those changes that they can't make themselves. And I think like that is a more restorative way of thinking about oftentimes when, people use accountability or like holding someone accountable, they're often talking about like public shaming and then punishment.

Right? And I, I don't like using that framework of accountability. And I just want to get clear what you mean when you say that, when you like tied that to like one breaking rules and detention, but, and also breaking relationships or harming relationships. 

Crystal (she/her): Yeah. So a lot of it comes through in a mutual conversation.

So how can we ensure that this is not gonna happen again? What steps can we take and work through together so that I can support you? And what do you need to make sure that whatever was done is not repeated? so the accountability looks like, hey, something happened. And whether that is in the context of school of, okay, well then you are going to get a detention.

if you cause that offense again, or maybe you'll get it this time, don't do it again, otherwise XYZ will happen, whatever that looks like. but really that follow through and accompaniment through that process is really what I mean by accountability. 

David (he/him): Yeah. Right. Centering the relationship. I was having a conversation with someone at a school, and, you know, we presented these ideas of restorative justice in an intro level workshop.

Holler at your boy if you want that support, at your place of work or at your school. plug aside, you know, we, we gave an intro level presentation and, you know, the school staff, the next time we came back like, Hey, you gave us this thing. And like, we believe in it and it's great. And I had this kid who like, I really just couldn't get through and had to like, send them out.

And like, Hey, you did XYZ steps, You tried to get support and like, you couldn't handle the situation on some level. Like that was the thing that you had to do in the moment. And, while that might be quote unquote punitive, right? and actually in the moment the relationship is not over. Like, what is the thing that we can do to repair and restore relationship, both between you and that student and that student and the class as they come back, right?

you know, restorative justice processes are yes, those community building aspects, yes, they are the thing that happen when harm occurs. They're also, these processes can be used when people are coming back into community, right? 

Crystal (she/her): Mm-hmm. 

David (he/him): when we're talking about, you know, how are you, what do you need?

Those questions can be asked at like all of those points, right? So like, Hey, this thing happened and we took this action that was punitive. While you were causing harm, like maybe we cause harm to you in the process of like removing you from this environment where you were learning in relationship with your classmates.

But as we're coming back, how are you feeling? What has been the impact of that and what do you need in order to one, be a student, who is both contributing to our class, but also like learning in an environment where you feel a sense of belonging, safety, inclusion, et cetera, et cetera. Like just because like you take an action that is punitive doesn't mean that a relationship can't be MedEd, right?

Like there's always opportunities to continue to engage. 

Crystal (she/her): Yeah, absolutely. I think that that's always what it comes down to also. And really recognizing that there is always opportunity to redeems one's self. So. I truly believe that everyone is redeemable. it may take time. there may be continual conversations.

but it is possible, and I think that that's one of the roots of this work too, is still recognizing the dignity of each person and recognizing that it is never the end, hopefully. in many case, many of the cases that I work with, and that there's always room for growth and progress. 

David (he/him): Yeah. You know, you do this work within the context of a school, with the job title of like d e i coordinator, Director, director?

Crystal (she/her): Director. Yeah. 

David (he/him): Gotcha. 

Crystal (she/her): Lots of big words, . 

David (he/him): Right. and you know, like as we've shared, like you have a background in doing this work within, within, jails and prisons. That's work that you continue, like as a chaplain, right? like that's the. Quote, unquote title that you have. But how are you continuing to bring, restorative work into, spaces where people are incarcerated?

Crystal (she/her): Yeah, so I continue to do this work, whenever I can. It's been really refreshing, that jails are open now to visitors. for a while I was accompanying a young woman in the correctional facility, before she was getting transferred to jail. And a lot of those conversations were about, just checking in with her, seeing how she's doing, and also hearing some of her reflections from some of the harm that she's done in the past.

so continuing to really accompany those who are incarcerated by my visits, holding circle, giving space for each one of them to share. in one of my recent visits, I think I had. Over 40 guys present, and it was just in the large room. and then I opened it up for one or two people from each table to come up and share and talk to one another about their reflections for the day.

Crystal (she/her): And I would say that that was just absolutely beautiful in giving them that space and that time to just share out. so continuing to provide those spaces in any way that I can, whenever I have the opportunity to enter into those spaces is, huge and something that I really hold close to my heart.

David (he/him): Yeah. And again, while it's not like. Hey, we are gonna sit in this formal circle process or like, Hey, we're gonna talk to you about like the harm that you've caused and like, what are the reparitive actions that you're gonna do when you get out of here to like, repair the relationships in your community. Like, that's a beautiful thing that could happen.

And within the context of an, sitting in a room with like 40 people for the hour and change that you had, right? Like, that's not something that we can do. But what is the thing that we can do that is going to build relationships, build respect, dignity relationship between the people in those spaces?

And so the next time, somebody, The, there's potential for conflict, in all the ways that that can pop off in, in a jail, right? You have a level of understanding of who that person is and where they're at. And so maybe I'm gonna let this slide on this particular occasion, because I understand like things that were going on in your background that like, might have led you to be this certain way that like, made me feel disrespected.

you know, those moments of those smaller moments of restoration, like can't go, unappreciated or unacknowledged. I, I think I'm frustrated and I don't, So, first of all, bless you. and like I don't have the energy to do the work within systems like that anymore. and I, and I know that De Mointe, who many folks listening know, is our community, facilitate, Sorry, our facilitator, community education at AmplifyRJ, we talk about, yeah.

David (he/him): Yeah, we don't do work like directly within the criminal sys criminal legal system, and schools are still systems that in many ways still like uphold, like really similar things. So full acknowledgement of that, I don't have the energy to do this work within the criminal legal system for the reason that.

My past experience doing this work, is often like that system commodifying or co-opting and then like bastardizing the way that this work can be, but right, for people like yourself who are not, like, you're not going in running like a restorative justice program. You are just this person who has this way of being, in the role of a chaplain, holding space for folks in this way that are allowing them to restore relationships with themselves, people in their community who they see on the every day.

And hopefully when they walk out of there, they have some skills, tools, frameworks for sharing vulnerably holding space for others. getting to understanding and allowing relationships to, to heal and repair. So blessings for, stepping into the work in those spaces, which are really, really tough to do this work in.

Crystal (she/her): Yeah, thank you. I think you said that so well. And yeah, it is hard knowing that I am entering into that system, into, the system where I see so much room for improvement in areas for change, to put it in the lightest way possible. and yet at the same time, I feel empowered every time I walk into that space, knowing the great privilege that I hold to just really sign my name, hand my ID over, walk through the metal detector, knowing that for that hour I have time with our brothers and sisters that I am surrounded by to, have conversation with them.

And they're not always religious, super religious conversations. They're. Check ins, they're really, Hey, how are we doing today? How can we support one another? and what are the areas that we can be better for next time? and that is something that I think anybody can really relate to, and it's really coming down to treating one another again, with that dignity and seeing each person as a human who has feelings, who has been through stuff, and maybe they just have not had the opportunity to work through some of those things or, or maybe have not had resources or people who have provided them with a space to share who they are.

and I say they because, they are, yes, our brothers and sisters, but so oftentimes also our society has just pushed them aside. and I don't see anybody like that. 

David (he/him): Yeah. Yeah. And I'm curious, like, you know, within the application of this work too, your, your, you've talked about like the application of this work to your.

Quote unquote professional roles,in the context of schools and the criminal legal system where people often pigeonhole like restorative justice. Right. How has this been a part of, you know, the day to day life of Crystal in the world? 

Crystal (she/her): Yeah, I value relationships so hard in my life. so it's really important to me that, you know, just that first principle of Howard's in terms of, I, I say a principle, but just the understanding that we are all interconnected and that we are in this web of life together.

That is how I view the world. Like I recognize that my actions, for better, for worse, have an impact on other human beings, potentially on the environment. and am I always so on top of that? No. And I think that I can be better, but in my life I feel that I've drawn an awareness to that, and that is a way that I choose to live my life.

Recognizing that my actions, my words have impacts on others. and when, when, or in the moments when I cause offense or harm, it is my responsibility to own up to them and try to make it better. And that's really how I try to live my life. And so I think that's why, whether it's in my profession or, anytime I'm entering into the correctional facilities, I try to bring that with me 

David (he/him): as you think about the way that, you know, you navigate instances of, of harm and relationship in your life, right? Sometimes we can say that and it, I think it goes both ways. Sometimes we say like, the people who we're closest to like, we have like the easiest time like navigating this conflict with it can also be like the most challenging 

Crystal (she/her): Absolutely.

David (he/him): That we can navigate, right? Because like on one level at school, like, okay, I'm gonna, I'm gonna do this thing, I'm gonna go home and you. Best of luck to you and your life going forward. Same thing within the correctional facility, like with your family or your friends. Like, no, we're like together for, for years and years and years.

how are we possibly going to navigate the situation? How have you, how have you found that dichotomy of like, oh, it's like sometimes really easy to step into like, Oh, I value this relationship, versus like, Oh, because I value this relationship so much. This is actually really difficult. Yes, 

Crystal (she/her): Yes. To all those things.

in the sense that I have definitely processed that, that same exact question with some of my other friends and some of my other rj practitioner friends too. because we're like, Hey, we can do this, like, With students, with teachers, like with other communities we're a part of, but in our own family, sometimes that's super hard, especially when you tack on.

the fact, So for me, like I've been studying rj, so I've been doing, at the same time a lot of my own internal work, learning how to own, my own shadows, learning how to unpack and process some of the stuff that is yucky about myself, but in some of the relationships that I may be a part of, whether it's in my family or with friends, for better or for worse, maybe they're not there yet in doing their own work or their own unpacking or how they navigate through conflict.

Crystal (she/her): But for me, in moments of conflict, like this is how I would love to navigate those conflicts through healthy communication, through, a healthy way of sharing feelings and being vulnerable and open. However, I know that that's not everybody in my life and I know that that's not everybody that I work with.

and so I think that that's also why I say like, we are all works in progress. And I think, the more practice we have with this work and the more practice I have with being able to navigate restorative justice in my own life, in my own relationships, then the better I'm able to kind of, work with them and hopefully they can also teach me a few things too.

David (he/him): Yeah. And you know, there's this, I think when I first learned this work, right, for my birthday, I, you know, facilitated a circle like for myself or people to like it, like people who are like really close to me, to like, you know, introduce them to this work that I was like really excited about and cared about.

And like, the balance of like trying to be this way with people while teaching them like, is really tricky, Right? And like, it's not always something that like I wanna like fully engage with, right? Because like, on one level, like that's what I do professionally. Like I'm just trying to be like my. my comfortable self right now where I don't have to feel like I am, like disseminating information, like we're just talking. Right. and like I haven't totally figured out what that balance looks like within like all of my relationships, but like, you know, living this restorative justice life, that's the, that's the ongoing work for sure.

there's one other thing that I wanted to ask you, that is slipping my mind and maybe it'll come back in the questions that I ask everyone. but is there anything else you wanted to share before we jump into like all of those questions that everybody answers when they come on? 

Crystal (she/her): Oh, I should have done my homework.

I guess the only thing is, restorative justice. Is a challenge and an invitation. I truly believe that we are all invited to explore what restorative justice can look like in our individual lives. and I think it's an invitation to learn more about ourselves through the process too. and I'm just so grateful to have had the opportunity to study it and to also practice it, in different settings 

David (he/him): too.

Yeah. Just off of that, this isn't like the question that I was gonna ask, but you know, you have had a lot of quote unquote formal training in restorative justice. are there things that you wanna highlight that have been like, Oh, this was actually like, super helpful for. 

Crystal (she/her): Yeah. the first I would say is through the University of San Diego.

They have a certificate of restorative, restorative justice leadership and facilitation. so I went through that certification program. It was a few years, and it was really helpful because it gave me the opportunity to meet other RJ practitioners in the field, others who are in the criminal justice system as like attorneys, lawyers, other students, people who just wanted to learn more about it.

and then, also others who just worked in other organizations or other fields. So that was really cool cuz community is super important as an RJ facilitator and practitioner. just to bounce ideas off of one another and to learn from each other too. and then the second one is I also got my master's at, the Santa Clara University.

I got my master's in, pastoral Ministries with an emphasis in restorative justice in chaplaincy. so really learning more about restorative justice and its intersection with faith, has been huge for me too. 

David (he/him): Absolutely. And you know, I wish I could say that we planned this, but you know, if you wanna learn more about the University of San Diego program, you can go listen to the previous episode with David Karp , you know, which is like the last episode I think, that's in this podcast feed.

I think, don't hold me to that, if either the previous one or the, or two before this. but now, we're gonna get to the questions that everybody answers when they come on this podcast right after this. Oh my gosh, Crystal, it's been so fun, having this conversation. but now it's time for the questions that everybody answers.

when they come on this podcast. We've talked around these ideas, but in your own words, to find restorative justice. 

Crystal (she/her): Restorative justice is the coming together of people based on relationships. and when relationships are broken, we look at who has been harmed, what are the harms that have taken place, and how can we ensure that those harms do not repeat themselves. 

David (he/him): Mm-hmm.b thank you. as you've been doing this work, what has been like an oh shit moment? Often the framing of the response that this is like a mistake that you made or something that you wish you did differently. It can also be like an ah, shit. Yeah, I did that and it was awesome.

Crystal (she/her): I think a huge moment for me literally was when I was accompanying a young woman, in jail as she was on her way to prison. that aw shit moment for me was when one of the moments when I showed up to the jail I was ready to check in. I was really jazzed for our meeting. It was like one of our like last meetings and then I found out she had been transferred.

David (he/him): Mm-hmm. 

Crystal (she/her): And so I haven't talked to her since, but I showed up. Ready to unpack some of the past experiences we had with each other, only to find out she had been transferred. And I was 

David (he/him): What did you learn from that situation? 

Crystal (she/her): I learned the importance of relationships to really value each meeting, each time we had together.

because you never know when it's gonna be your last. 

David (he/him): Yeah. I think when I hear that, it's like, and this is why it's so hard to do this work with inside those systems. Right. I, and I think about the time when I was doing, I was running a program for, or helping to run a program for folks who were about to be released, back into the neighborhood that the organization I was working with mm-hmm.

was, so like, Hey, like let's build relationships. So like, oh, when you come out on the other side, like you. Relationships you have, you know, where you can go get support. I, we, we were running this program right, with, you know, 12 or so guys, and, you know, one week, like one person wasn't there. Right?

David (he/him): Wow. And it's because they had gotten in a fight and like, were kicked outta that programs, like we're trying to do this restorative work. Like why couldn't we have like, work this thing out restoratively. And so within those systems, right, like sometimes, you know, whether it's transfers, whether it's like the punitive nature of the system doing what it does, like prevents that growth.

And so, you know, that that lesson of like, don't take like moments in relationships for granted because like, you never know, like is, is so resonant, so important. thank you for sharing that. I have tried to frame this question different ways and so like I might redirect you in your response if you're not answering what, like, what I'm trying to get at.

Can you share a tip for practitioners? Something that like you want practitioners of this work in whatever space, like in the criminal legal system, in schools to, to know, walking away from this conversation based off of your experiences.

Crystal (she/her): Yeah. I think one tip I have and something that I remind myself on the daily is to own and recognize my own biases. 

David (he/him): Mm-hmm. 

Crystal (she/her): Own and recognize what I'm holding and what I am bringing to each interaction and knowing, or at least trying to understand how that is going to impact the interaction or that moment.

If I'm feeling really good one day, then maybe I'll show up really good. But there are moments when I'm not doing well and I'm like, I can't have this conversation today because of whatever bias I'm holding or because I need to work on some things on my end first. and I think that that is hugely important.

David (he/him): Is there a specific example or if not a specific example, like a specific bias that like repeatedly shows up for you that you know, you have to keep working on? 

Crystal (she/her): Yeah. When there is anti-bias, offenses or action done against the Asian American community as a Filipino American, that is extremely hard for me because that is the identity that I hold.

so I always have to check myself on that. 

David (he/him): Yeah. How do you, Yeah. Like what does checking yourself look like? . 

Crystal (she/her): For that moment, detaching myself from the fact that that is a harm that may not directly impact me, but recognizing that yes, it do does indirectly impact me as a Filipino American. however, I need to put that aside for that moment when I am trying to really focus on a restorative justice solution.

and one that is really focused on relationship and taking myself out of it. 

David (he/him): I'm not someone who believes that within a process, like there's actual, like objectivity, right? Because you are actually like a full human person. Like having to process and hold space for people who have caused, people who look like you, people in your community harm and like as a full participant in that process, like right as both as a facilitator, but a person who's present, like I think sharing your impact.

Sharing the impact that like this has had on you, like can also be helpful, in different circumstances. Like when do you decide like how to share like the impact that like all of this has on you as a person, hearing that like in the identities that like this person has like caused harm to, and when do you decide to swallow it?

Crystal (she/her): Yeah, so I think boundaries are really important, in my role. And also at the same time, there's a healthy way to be vulnerable and open in sharing those things to, So really depending on the situation, that will help me determine whether or not I bring myself into that situation to. Not humanize things a little bit more, but to also show like, Hey, I'm not just a robot that is issuing these three set questions to you, but rather let me tell you how I've been impacted from what I'm hearing happens.

and I think that that's really important because that's still emphasizing relationship. and that is still showing impact. And that's a way that I can humanize myself a little bit in that moment too. 

David (he/him): Yeah. Yeah. And right. The lines are fine and there's not. cut and dry. Like, this is how it applies in every situation.

Like, this is the moment that I'm gonna detach. This is the moment where I'm gonna like, share. But, you know, thank you for sharing those nuances about like how it, it's, it's applied for you. It also reminds me of the question that I was going to ask you, you talked a little bit before about, you know, learning from indigenous Filipino, wisdom about like, you know, how we embody this work.

And I'm curious, like if there's anything that you wanted to share, out of like, this is just like my personal curiosity. Like, you know, I, I talk about, you know, values of Kapwa, as like, you know, this idea of unity interconnection, both from like Tagalog perspectives, like that's what the word means.

But like in the buyin, which is the precolonial language of the Philippine, like, where it's like kapwa being, like this interconnection between all beings, right? both humans and like, Relatives in the natural world. But is there anything that, you've learned, from our, for, from our Filipino ancestors that, has really helped you in this work that you wanna share?

Crystal (she/her): Yeah, I think the community spirit, is so important. I also think about the values that I hold in our Filipino traditions of family and food. I have like a picture in my office of, just kamaya, right? Like just eating from the same plate, feeding one another and really drawing one another together.

And whether they're healthy relationships or not, I think just the bringing together of people of gathering there's opportunity for joy and just for learning more about one another and spending time with each other. And that's something that I really value in my own life. And I can definitely see, traces of that in how I live restorative justice in my own 

David (he/him): day to day.

Yeah. Yeah. Thank you. Thank you for that. and I'm gonna ask you to spell by anyhow, right after this. Yeah. this, so back to the question that like everybody answers, this question is challenging in a different way. You get to sit in circle with four people dead are alive. Who are they and what is the one question you asked?

The circle? 

Crystal (she/her): Oh my gosh. Oh, this is, Oh wow. Okay. I would say St. Francis Xavier Cabrini, we call her Mother Cabrini, but, she's the saint of the order of Sisters that I worked with and, learned so much from, Definitely would say Jesus . I would love to sit in circle with Sister Helen while we're on this topic, and then also one of my ancestors.

Far, far back. Maybe one of them I have yet to name because I don't know all of them and how far back it goes.

David (he/him): Mm-hmm. , And what is the one question you would ask that circle?

Crystal (she/her): The question I would ask them is, what keeps you going and how did you keep it going on the daily for all that you stood for?

David (he/him): Now, the, I don't know if you remember this from your previous podcast listening, but I get to turn that question back to you. What keeps you going on the Daily? Why do you keep doing what you're doing? 

Crystal (she/her): Yeah. I would say my. Keeps me going and the belief that we can all be better and that we have a collective responsibility to one another and to our environment to be better and to make things the best that they can be.

David (he/him): Yeah. When it's hard, like what is it about your faith that says like, Yeah, this is still worth it?

Crystal (she/her): Cause at the end of the day, even though I may not see the fruits of the work that I do, I believe that good is out there. Mm-hmm. . and I truly believe and have faith that anything is possible. And I think that sometimes in my own human mind, I can limit myself on what's possible, but I really believe that anything is possible.

Even the best things. 

David (he/him): Yes, Yes. Thank you so much. last two questions. Who's one person that I should have on the podcast and you have to help me get them on?

Crystal (she/her): Caitlin, oh no. Yeah, Caleb Moreau, she's amazing. She's with Catholic Mobilizing that work and you should definitely have, Macau Black Elk. He, he is a restorative justice practitioner. He is like leading the tr Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He's at, the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

David (he/him): Mm-hmm. 

Crystal (she/her): He's working on like Truth and Reconciliation talks, between the indigenous community and the school. because it's a Jesuit run school. Oh, Red Cloud Indian School in South 

David (he/him): Dakota. I would love to make that connection. So, 

Crystal (she/her): Awesome. I don't know how to make the connection, but I'm trying to get connected to him just cuz I'm like, I just wanna talk to you.

David (he/him): Yes. And then we can also get, we can also get connected to Caitlin too. 

Yeah. She does a lot of, Yeah. I'm, I'm connected to her. She does a lot work. So Kathy mobilizing network, they work with like all of the university campuses for RJ stuff.

David (he/him): Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. and finally, how and where can people support you and your work in the ways that you want to be supported?

Crystal (she/her): Be a better human being, treat one another with respect and be curious about one another too. 

David (he/him): this is also often the place where people like plug anything. I don't know if you have anything that you wanna plug, but I also wanted to leave that open to you. 

Crystal (she/her): Yeah. I don't have anything to plug.

David (he/him): Okay.

Crystal (she/her): I'm just like a person. Try to do my good work. and spread, yeah, spread goodness around. Okay, 

David (he/him): cool. And then do you want to direct people to crystal 

Crystal (she/her): Yeah.

You can check out my website, haven't updated in a while, but it has a lot of my reflections and blog posts from some of my restorative justice experiences in and out of the jails.

David (he/him): Beautiful. So, you know, be a better human. Connect with Crystal Online link in the show notes. Crystal, thank you so much for, all the wisdom, the stories, the experiences that you've shared.

it's been really good to connect. I know this won't be the last time that we talk, but, you know, I'm really looking forward to, you know, the continuing of this relationship and coming back next week with another episode of someone living this Restorative Justice Life. Until then, y'all take care.