Webinar: Re-Entry Planning Circles: A Solution-Focused Approach For Incarcerated Individuals and Loved Ones

When: October 14, 2015

Guest: Lorenn Walker and Ian Crabbe

Host: Howard Zehr

This facilitated reentry circle process for youth and adults uses a public health approach applying both restorative justice and solution-focused brief therapy, which is goal oriented and strength based. The model was developed 10 years ago at a men’s prison in Hawai’i.

A main purpose of the reentry circle is to give Individual imprisoned people the opportunity to address their needs for transitioning into the community with the support of their loved ones. They meet in prison with loved ones who they identify and are invited by the facilitator. Often the circle is the first time the imprisoned person has seen some members of their family for months or years.

The imprisoned person’s needs addressed at the circle include how they might make amends for any harm that their behavior and imprisonment may have caused their loved ones and the community at large. Their need for reconciliation with loved ones, themselves, or simply addressing how they can best deal with an unjust situation, is provided restoratively.

Circles have been provided twice for imprisoned people who were innocent, yet convicted and incarcerated under the rule of law. In these circles, the innocent imprisoned person’s harm was also addressed restoratively.

Other needs addressed during the circle include housing, transportation, obtaining any necessary documents, continued learning, how emotional and physical health can be maintained, and any other needs identified by the imprisoned person, e.g. getting a divorce, etc. A prison staff person usually participates in the process.

The circles have also been used for people completing parole and probation, and a new project will test the process for people entering federal prison in Hawai’i.

A detailed written plan with concrete steps and timelines is prepared after the circle and provided to the circle participants. Follow up circles are provided as requested by the imprisoned person. The process is being replicated in New York, California, and Washington DC.

Hawai’i Friends of Restorative Justice (hawaiifriends.org) has conducted 134 circles with 575 participants who have completed surveys about the process including measuring increased optimism that stronger social bonds were created or strengthened for the imprisoned person during the circle. 100% of the surveyed participants found the circles were positive even in cases where the imprisoned person who had a circle became re-incarcerated.

Research also shows children of incarcerated parents have experienced “healing” quantified as increased hope about the future (optimism) and decreased rumination over past traumatic events (forgiveness). Preliminary research also conducted by Hawai’i Friends, shows promise that the circles help decrease recidivism.

New York’s application of the model in a women’s jail was evaluated independently in 2014, which showed it provided “major benefits.” An independent evaluation of Hawai’i’s circles began in September 2015.