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"We're here to help them learn and grow from this."

Staff from the Office of Court Administration, the Legal Aid Society, the Kings County District Attorney's Office, and the Center for Court Innovation hold hands in a closing ceremony of today's Peacemaking program information session.
Staff from throughout the Justice Center's many partner agencies came together today to learn about the launch of our new Peacemaking program in much the same setting that participants in the program will: by sitting in a circle and breaking bread together.

Peacemaking program staff described the training process, during which peacemakers learned from the experience of Navajo Nation peacemakers and heard from a professional storyteller in addition to sessions run by our Tribal Justice Exchange staff. Describing the way that peacemakers came together despite personal struggles in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Deputy Director Brett Taylor noted that the training process "created a community that trusts each other" and worked to "empower peacemakers to build consensus."

Peacemaking Program Director Erika Sasson expressed her confidence in the abilities of the new peacemakers as we approach the launch of the program next month by telling a story: when one peacemaker adopted a punitive tone to describe the program during a training session, other peacemakers jumped in to bring the conversation back towards the core philosophy of the program, reminding everyone that "we're not a court. We're here to help them learn and grow from this."

Program staff answered questions from staff and worked through concerns about the court referral process to peacemaking, building consensus in much the same way as peacemakers have been trained to do for participants: "it's not imposed on you; you are part of the process and coming up with the solution." The session also closed with one of the ceremonial elements that peacemaking participants will experience, with the group holding hands in a circle and "passing the pulse" from one person to the next.

Stay tuned for information about the upcoming launch of the program, set to begin early next year.

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