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Chilean delegation learns about the “Safe Streets” program and participates in a circle

Oct 09, 2009

from Lisa J. Laplante's entry on the Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog:

In the afternoon, we were joined by Distinguished Professor and Director of the MULS Restorative Justice Initiative, Janine Geske and headed to the South Side of Milwaukee in an MU athletic van.  At the Kosciusko Community Center, we met with Paulina de Haan, co-coordinator of the Safe Streets Program, who had convened a circle of community members:  parole officers, offenders who recently finished their prison terms, and policemen.

Professor Geske first gave an overview of the theory of circles, which emphasizes the idea that we all belong to the same community and that alternative processes can help reconcile differences.  Ms. de Haan then instructed us that  we could only talk when he held the “talking piece” (a carved stone).  This practice helped us learn how to listen when we were without the piece.    All of us shared our definition of community; the experience of being Latino in the United States and in Chile (and, in my case, of living in both cultures); and finally how crime and violence have impacted our own lives. 

The students were completely stunned to watch the two policemen sit next to the offenders, and impressed by the approachable and caring demeanor of the law enforcement agents.  Chilean Professor Pablo Contreras explained, “Our police are not like that.”   The experience greatly affected the delegation, which has begun to contemplate ways of bringing the techniques to its own country.

Read the whole article.

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