Santa Barbara: A Restorative Community

In communities around the country, an individual’s struggle is not usually considered to be the community’s struggle.  If a child does not follow school rules, she is sent out of class or disciplined with mandatory detention.  If an adolescent defies social norms and legal authority, he is removed from the community, placed in juvenile hall or on probation, and labeled a juvenile offender.  If a homeless person situates himself on Main Street, USA, business owners and passersby feel intimidated and demand that they are removed from view.  We have become a nation which believes we must “pull ourselves up from our bootstraps”.  But what if we are without boot to pull?


The Restorative Community Network believes that Santa Barbara has the potential to be better than the average community.  A Restorative Community draws upon the principles of Restorative Practices, such as community building, strengthening relationships, reconciliation, and peacemaking. Leadership of a Restorative Community looks at the root causes of challenges, holds individuals accountable, and strives to address the complex social issues that contribute to individual and community struggles.  


We are familiar with Restorative Practices such as; the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRC), which was established to reconcile violence and human rights abuse that took place under apartheid; The Rwandan Gacaca Courts, which used a system of community justice to prosecute those accused of involvement in the 1994 genocide; the TRC of Canada, which documented the experiences of survivors, families, communities, and anyone personally affected by the Indian Residential Schools experience; and the 1999 Greensboro TRC focused on the murder of labor organizers by the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party. 


The goal of Restorative Practices is to “make things right”, which may focus on addressing workplace conflict, resolving a family dispute, repairing student/teacher relationships, or overcoming a significant community challenge.  It includes identifying the harm experienced by the victim, holding the offender accountable for the harm, and restoring relationships.  Restorative Practices transform individuals and communities by seeing beyond the present condition and considers the historical and external content, allowing for sustainable change community healing.


A Restorative Community values and respects its residents.  As leaders in a Restorative Community we understand that community members must work together to create a more just world.  Key stakeholders collaboratively resolve challenges, avoiding temporary remedies and instead, strives for transformative solutions, building the social capital required for a thriving society.  As a Restorative Community, Santa Barbara is called to “make things right” and promote a common good for all community members.


Over the next few months, please join us as we explore Santa Barbara as a Restorative Community. 


About the Restorative Community Network

The Restorative Community Network (RCN) is a coalition of individuals and organizations committed to working together to address the complex social issues contributing to juvenile crime.  The purpose of the RCN is to advocate for the use of Restorative Practices in the juvenile justice system, educational system, and youth & family services, promoting a system change away from an isolative and punitive model toward a healing and transformative model of caring for our youth.  The long-term goal of the RCN is system and policy change toward a sustainable and inclusive model of youth services, through the promotion of Restorative Practices and collaborative partnerships. 

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