VOMA Quarterly

("Jack" continued from page 4)

While I never heard the phrase used in Des Moines, I felt the entire week was, in a sense, an exercise in "tough love." Our hearts were open, but so were our eyes and ears.
I stopped in Minneapolis on the way back to Seattle and grabbed a copy of the Sunday Star Tribune. Its editorial page was devoted to an article on "Promising Initiatives--Community Can Indeed Curb Crime." What an intriguing concept, yes? The editorial touched on (1) community (Sam "collars" a ten-year-old troublemaker and calls his aunt Tee Tee); (2) collaboration (Honeywell Corp. supports block clubs and hires neighborhood residents); and (3) communication (school officials actually talking with parents). Gee whiz., do you think these guys in Minneapolis are on to something?
Today, American litigation, both civil and criminal, is a civilized (or perhaps not so civilized) form of guerilla warfare. People (both clients and lawyers) lie, cheat, steal, sell their mothers and daughters, do anything, TO WIN. (I speak metaphorically of course.) To win what? To win "the case." What is "the case"?  Well, in civil litigation, it is usually about money. Experience in these matters informs us that "winners" are few and far between. Usually both sides get less than expected (in large part because expectations are too high) and the lawyers "win" the most, through fat fees.
So after 23 years I've pretty much had it. Effective October 1st of last  year I have gone on reduced status at my law firm. I will devote much of my new-found free time to mediating business disputes (for a fee), volunteering as a VORP mediator, and tending to some family business affairs. And this change feels so good.
We are indeed in the midst of a "quiet mutiny" from the established system of justice (my own career change is a perfect example of this). Des Moines was just great. Best regards to all my new VOMA friends. See you next year.

by Louise Stowe Johns

In a large circle on Saturday afternoon, the 14th Annual International VOMA Conference came to an official close. As the "feather" was passed, participants spoke from the heart about Restorative Justice. Some responded to the question of whether Restorative Justice is a revolution or reform, averring it to be neither. A quote shared with the circle from the poet Rilke is quite apt, "If we live the question, the answers will come." One of the plenary leaders noted that to him, justice that restores is a "circle of dreamers."
That observation of our being dreamers caught my imagination. There are dream analysts who say all the characters in dreams are actually different manifestations of the dreamer. Using dreams as a kind of metaphor, I will share with you my perspective on the Training and Conference.
In role-playing during training we became offender and victim, parents, friends, authority figures and mediators. Sometimes we were surprised as we slipped easily into roles we have never been in life. In those roles we caught glimpses of ourselves in the dream as offender, victim, or another member of the community. We saw ourselves capable of acts of mercy and acts of violence.
Then came the nightmares as we grieved with victims such as the Streuferts in their remarkable struggle to come to terms with the brutal murder of their college-age daughter in 1991. The film "Glimmer of Hope" about their efforts was shown in the opening plenary. The presence of the parents, Don and Mary Streufert, had a sobering effect. Yet their comments around the film were illuminating and inspiring. For me, as one who has mediated crimes of violence, it underscored the need for patience in "getting to the table" as one is sensitive to complex needs of victim and offender.
During the week, I sensed tension between persons whose passion is more for the victim than for the offender. I sensed

(See "Circle" continued on page 10)