Tears and Open Hearts: Peacemaking Coordinating Team works to restore lives

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The King County Juvenile Court’s Youth Service Center lobby has been transformed into a court room. Methodists and other supporters of the Peacemaking Coordinating Team are in attendance to share their restorative efforts to both the respondent and the family affected by harm in a long-term effort for mutual healing.

By the Rev. Terri Stewart | Photos by Thary Sun Lim

Seattle, Wash. – Inside the King County Juvenile Court’s Youth Service Center lobby, the area had been turned into a courtroom for the sentencing of one of the youth we have been working with. We sat in this space along with two rows of chairs filled with United Methodist church folks, including pastors and lay people alike. There were over 100 people present for this sentencing.

As the sentencing proceeded, we heard from the judge, the prosecution, the defense, the Peacemaking Coordinating Team (PCT)…and then the respondent (person who did harm) spoke. And then the victim’s mother spoke.

We were all blubbering and sniffling by the end of it – but not because it was hurtful. The tears were because of the witness of transformation and hope. To see a genuinely-healed person extend their hand to honor the victim. To see the victim’s family stand up and say, “Do more of this.”

The respondent sits during a hearing on the efforts made in the restorative efforts of the Peacemaking Coordinating Team. Counseling, visits with the family that the person has harmed, and peacemaking circles with others are just some of the work done to promote the healing process for both parties involved.

There are some flaws to work out but that is because we are human. And this process is about becoming more completely human.

I share below with you a summarized version of the final recommendation* to the court from the PCT’s Safia Ahmed and the joy in a complete dismissal of charges against the respondent. Her final recommendations were made on July 7, 2017.

*The names of the young people involved have been removed.


 

The Peacemaking Coordinating Team honored and thanked the respondent’s victim’s family who were instrumental in supporting the restorative, healing process. Also recognized were King County, community-based organizations, faith-based communities, youth, and families. A referral for this case was made in October 2016 by Jimmy Hung, senior deputy prosecuting attorney.

Home visits by the PCT were made with the respondent and their family. Another home visit was made with the victim and their family. Questions about the process were addressed. PCT work continued from December 2016 until July 1, 2017.

Five Healing Circles meetings were made with the victim, the respondent, and their families with each Circle lasting 3-4 hours. Each Circle promoted healing, peace, reconciliation with the respondent, the respondent’s family and community members who wanted to show support.

The respondent with parents with King County Executive Dow Constantine in March 2017.

The respondent’s mother attended a 3-Day Introductory Peacemaking Circle Training from April 26-28, 2017.

One Pre-Sentencing Circle and One Sentencing Circle that included the presence of the victim’s mother along with criminal justice stakeholders; friends and family from both parties. One home visit and approximately 20-25 hours of check-ins. The PCT stayed connected with the respondent via phone and text over the course of 7 months.

The following outline was agreed upon in the Sentencing Circle as a conclusion to this case:

  • Reimbursement to the victim’s family for eight of the 12 counseling sessions the victim partook in for self-care and healing work. Each session cost $120 for a total of $960.
  • The respondent paid two sessions, three sessions paid by the respondent’s family, three sessions paid from funds provided by the community and the Peacemaking Coordinating Team.
  • The respondent’s father kindly agreed to show support to the victim and the victim’s mother by offering to pay for a trip as an opportunity to spend time with each other to rebuild their relationship along with having a positive experience coming from the respondent and his family.

In addition the Peacemaking Coordinating Team also recommended the following:

  • As a way to give back and pay it forward, 6 months of volunteer work with the Peacemaking Coordinating Team which included:
  1. Attend the Peacemaking Coordinating Team meetings once a month
  2. Participate and help lead a monthly Young Men’s Circle in support of other young people who are going through similar situations.
  3. The respondent, with the support of his brothers and parents, has agreed to these recommendations as a way to heal the harm he has caused to the victim, the victim’s family and to the community at large.

The Peacemaking Coordinating Team expressed gratitude to the victim and the victim’s family who graciously permitted the respondent and his family to participate in the Peacemaking Circle process. Their generosity and commitment have given space for the healing process to begin for both families. Appreciation was made to the court, our criminal justice partners and the community for the continued support of our work.


The Rev. Terri Stewart serves as associate pastor of Riverton Park UMC. Thary Sun Lim is a member of the King County Peacemaking Coordinating Team.

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