Transformative Justice Class, California State Prison Lancaster

Re:Store Justice conducts several weekly classes at California State Prison Los Angeles County, which is 70 miles north of downtown Los Angeles. Working inside prisons builds a direct connection between our advocacy work to create a second chance for people sentenced to extreme prison terms and the people who are directly impacted by mass incarceration. We are aware that these opportunities impact survivor family members, and as a restorative justice organization, we are also committed to supporting survivors and addressing their unmet needs for healing, transformation and violence prevention. Our classes inside prison give survivor family members an opportunity to share their testimony. Sharing their stories is an opportunity for them to be heard and have their loved one remembered and acknowledged. For some survivors, contributing to the insight and rehabilitation of incarcerated individuals with the goal of healing and violence prevention can bring healing and meaning to their lives.

The sixteen week program helps participants begin to think critically about their values, identity, and the impact of early childhood trauma. Participants learn about emotional intelligence, communication skills self care and self regulation. The program culminates with sessions on accountability, apology, self forgiveness and a presentation by a survivor. Participants gain powerful new insights into themselves, the impact of violence on victims, responsible parties, and communities, and their own need for healing.

These classes meet for two hours once a week for sixteen weeks. Each program has a maximum of 17 participants and concludes with a graduation with incarcerated people, family members, and community guests. The program helps participants begin to think critically about their values, identity, and the impact of early childhood trauma and connect the dots between what happened to them and their subsequent criminal behavior.

Participants learn about emotional intelligence, communication skills, stress reduction techniques, gender roles, accountability, apology and forgiveness. The program includes a presentation by victims/survivors that helps participants understand the effects of violence on victims/survivors, families and communities as well as on self. Participants gain powerful new insights into themselves, the impact of violence on victims, offenders, and communities, and their own need for healing.

The criteria for enrollment in the Restorative Justice program are that the incarcerated person is serving a life or long-term sentence; has a willingness to share in a group setting; and has an interest in doing reflective work about their crime and life history. We give priority to people who were youth or young adults (under age 26) at the time of the crime.

We do not require that inmates have participated in previous group programs. In fact, we welcome incarcerated people who have not had the opportunity to enroll in programs because of their security status or program availability.

Program Schedule

Week 1: Introduction to Restorative Justice: Our Beliefs & Values
Week 2: The Ripple Effect: How My Actions Affect Me & Others
Week 3: Naming & Understanding Feelings & Needs
Week 4: Stress & Coping Mechanisms
Week 5: Healthy Communication Skills
Week 6: The Impact of Trauma – Part one: Childhood Trauma, Resilience & Timeline
Week 7: The Impact of Trauma – Part two: Connecting the Dots
Week 8: Man in a Box: Gender Roles, Relationships & Violence
Week 9: Victims/Survivors Presentation — The Impact of Violence on Victims/Survivors, Families, Communities & Self
Week 10: Debrief of Survivor Panel
Week 11: Accountability, Responsibility & Apology
Week 12: Healthy & Unhealthy Guilt & Accountability
Week 13: Self-Forgiveness & Self-Compassion
Week 14: Mock Parole Hearing
Week 15: Appreciations
Week 16: Closing and Next Steps