Facilitators: To Pay, Or Not To Pay?

By William A. Bledsoe, Ph.D.

Should facilitators be paid? As restorative justice continues to expand, it’s a question that deserves serious consideration and discussion. Below I raise some issues that I hope will generate this discussion.

Perhaps the first issue is the financial impact to programs. One of the appeals of RJ is that it is cost-effective. RJ is “more than six times more cost-effective than traditional criminal justice methods” (Furman, 2012:73). One of the reasons why it’s cost-effective is because facilitators are volunteers. Paying facilitators will increase budget. And considering the difficulty securing funding for RJ programs as it is, paying facilitators might impact the chances of programs being funded in the first place.

Second, if paid, how much? Those who “facilitate negotiation and conflict resolution through dialogue […] outside of the court system by mutual consent of parties” are paid anywhere from $20 per hour to $50 (http://www.bls.gov). Attorneys who mediate and arbitrate can charge as much as $500 per hour or more. One advantage to paying by the case is predictability. If a program can reliably estimate how many cases per year are processed, it can reliably estimate the cost of facilitation.

Third, and the most important issue in my mind, how would payment affect the quality of facilitation? I believe paying facilitators would (a) professionalize (b) standardize (c) legitimize the practice of facilitation. Paying facilitators establishes restorative conference facilitation as a unique skill. When I testified at the state capitol in support of recognizing “restorative mediation” as its own category, I heard established civil mediators say “we don’t need this designation, we already do it as part of our mediation practice.” I argued that while mediators may attempt to include “restoration” as part of their practice, in fact, “restoration is its own method with its own goals and with its own specific training criteria.” Because as facilitators we are empathically navigating the emotional and psychological reality of violation and conflict, we must learn a unique set of interpersonal and group communication skills. Paying facilitators might also attract professionals from other human-behavior related fields which would only increase the quality of facilitation and even retention.

This leads to my second point, standardization of training. Paying facilitators would authorize a certification process and support the establishment of facilitation standards. Though standards have been established, connecting facilitation rates with levels of training would motivate facilitators to pursue higher levels – all of which would lead to a more refined and substantive facilitation personnel base. With each level of training, a facilitator might qualify for a higher rate of pay.
Lastly, and as a direct result of professionalization and standardization, paying facilitators would legitimize the practice of restoration as a certifiable skill requiring unique levels of education and training.

As I move forward in helping to build another program for the courts where I live, I intend to find a way to secure facilitation pay. It’s time.
Hopefully, my comments will foster a lively discussion.

Please submit your comments below.

BIO Dr. Will Bledsoe: Introduced to restorative justice in 2001, Dr. Bledsoe has been a facilitator, program director, trainer, researcher, lecturer/teacher, mediator and organizational consultant. In addition to teaching at Colorado Mountain College, consulting both Roaring Fork Schools and the Aspen Courts, he is putting the finishing touches on a book: “A Line in the Sand: Bullying, Justice, and Restoration.
He currently resides in Carbondale, Colorado.


The Growing Positive Impact of Restorative Justice In Schools

The Growing Positive Impact of Restorative Justice In Schools

The change in perspective about punishment within school systems has received varied responses. They range from, “It is past time we corrected the cycle of negative reinforcement.” to concerns that Restorative Justice in schools will ultimately result in an encouragement of repeat offenders. As the Restorative Justice approach has been fully vetted by the Department of Education and the Department of Justice, there is evidence that it has also helped a number of school systems throughout the nation takes steps toward best practices for behavioral rehabilitation.

Traditional Methods of Discipline in Schools:

Defined, the word “discipline” encompasses the actions; to educate, to instruct, and to correct. However, in many schools the meaning of this word has lost its traditional foundation and is more strongly associated with punishment, exclusion and reprimand.

These conventional approaches to discipline in our schools, have not provided the desired results. Instead, they have produced students who feel disenfranchised from their schools and consequently may further act out or drop out. The common current discipline models fail to actually promote peace or order within schools. Further, reprimand and punishment fracture the school community instead of allowing the affected parties to address the student responsible for the misconduct. The student is simply sent away from those affected without making things right with them. This leaves the student without alternatives or corrected behavior patterns. The result is that a behavioral cycle is supported, rather than broken.

A New Approach to Discipline in Schools

Conversely, institutions that have been using Restorative Justice in schools have been getting better results with their students. As an alternative to or in conjunction with traditional methods (i.e. shorter suspension or in school suspension followed by a restorative justice process) replace expulsion, suspension and other "zero tolerance" practices. One strong indicator that restorative school cultures are working has been cited in the improvement of reading and math test scores that restorative schools. Further, when the restorative schools are compared to those with similar demographics not practicing restorative discipline, the significance in improvement is even more evident.

Beyond standardized test comparisons, other statistical indicators also provide strong correlation with the positive outcomes.

Up to 25% reduction in chronic absenteeism
Over a 50% reduction in drop-out rates
Higher than 60% improvements in actual school graduation

These outcomes are not just reflective of positive change within the school system that has adopted the alternative approach, but also in comparison to schools that still use zero tolerance and punitive discipline rather than truly educational discipline.

In truth, Restorative Justice in schools is actually about healing the problem, rather than condemning a student to stigmas that will simply compound over time. The restorative justice practices create a context of care where teachers and administrators are not the enemy to be avoided, but rather are the guides who teach that discipline is accountability from within not the arbitrary judgment of others. Restorative justice processes provide a holistic form of the true definition of discipline adding to the value of the current educational systems. Perhaps most importantly, restorative justice practices in schools offer students a level of learning that ultimately leads to behavioral rehabilitation.


Juvenile Diversion Programs And The Empowerment Of Potential

Juvenile Diversion Programs And The Empowerment Of Potential

Juvenile Diversion Programs have a long history in the youth justice system, which was initially developed to keep young offenders from entering the adult justice system. The theory behind these programs holds fast to the belief that early introduction into the greater penal system will ultimately lead to a cycle of conviction and negative life choices. By granting a second chance through the principles of restorative justice, juvenile diversion is also able to rehabilitate and heal offenders, versus encouraging a recurrence of maladaptive behaviors.

One of the biggest points that is addressed in Juvenile Diversion Programs is the psycho-social development and environmental variables that lead to criminal and anti-social behavior. With Restorative Justice Juvenile Diversion Programs the victim presence concretizes the harm done by the young offender making the impact clear. While program parameters are determined by regional districts and statutes, general evaluation of the severity of the crime does put some constraints on absolute use of diversions. However, judicial districts, municipalities and schools which subscribe to these programs will still use the diversion process in evaluating potential for rehabilitation and repair of harm to vicitms.

Most diversion programs focus on first-time offenders who have committed misdemeanor crimes. Engaging the theories behind restorative justice, this also provides a chance for responses that are not punitive but more focused on lessons in personal and social development. This innovative approach helps youths who have made a poor decision to avoid the stigmatization and collateral consequences that a criminal conviction would bring, while still reinforcing the importance of personal accountability and responsibility.

Good People Make Bad Decisions

The use of restorative justice has also helped to streamline Juvenile Diversion Programs. There is a wide spectrum of restorative justice practices many of which provide a cost effective and time efficient opportunity for all involved. In Colorado the four Restorative Justice Juvenile Diversion Pilot Programs have served over 400 youth. One model or practice designed by the Fort Collins restorative justice program and implemented by the 19th Judicial District pilot is called ReStore. This practice serves a group of juveniles who have taken responsibility for shoplifting and holds them accountable. Area merchants are represented by a volunteer business representative who expresses the harm and impact of shoplifting. Young participants and their parents learn the cost of this crime both socially and economically and work together to strategize how the juvenile can make better choices, make things right for their families and repair the harm to the merchants.

As a result, young offenders come away with increased awareness of their impact and increased empathy for those they have affected. The wishes of offense victims are a primary consideration for constructive responses to reported incidents. This also creates engagement in an applied process developing creative ways of dealing with the issues arising from problematic behavior of young people, in appropriate ways that do not unduly stigmatize or punish those concerned. One ReStore participant shared this comment in the post-process survey, “This was definitely a good option to have for kids making this mistake. I hope you keep it around. (It) makes them feel more like a community member rather than just kid who messed up.”

Law enforcement and school systems are encouraging this perspective that better education, building relationships, and the ability to take responsibility without having that infraction define the rest of one's life, is empowering youth to seek the virtue of potential, and not the circumstances of environment.

For a law enforcement officer’s perspective on the value of restorative justice as an option for young offenders please watch this video.

Officer Greg Reprecht sees Restorative Justice in action by keeping offenders from becoming repeat offenders.


Brain science supporting the 1st “R” of restorative justice practices- Relationship


Dr. Daniel Siegel’s Tedx talk, sent to me by RJ Council member Candie Hawkins, reminds me that restorative justice practices develop critical brain circuitry needed for building Relationships (the 1st “R” of The 5 Rs) rooted in empathy and self-reflection.

He suggests we add some “Rs” to the commonly referred to “reading, writing and arithmetic” taught in schools. Restorative practices have already begun… Dr. Siegel recommends daily brain hygiene like brushing our teeth to maintain a healthy mind. It may seem so simple and yet we so easily shut off that circuit to relationship when conflict happens.

Whether we practice in schools, communities, families or the criminal justice system that connection among the people in the room is what moves us to ask for the next opportunity to facilitate a restorative process.

Even as I prepare to send this link to you all, it is the excitement of connecting with you that inspires me. Three cheers for the 1st “R” of The 5 Rs- Relationship!



The Belonging Revolution passes the 1 year mark in Longmont CO

It has been a little while since I posted about the amazing ”Belonging Revolution” Walks happening regularly in Longmont CO. Dan Benavidez and Mike Butler were join last Sunday by Longmont City Councilperson Jeff Moore in this impressive and continued effort to build a restorative community.

From Dan:

When Mike on our way back from DC (They spoke at the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) conference.) said Dan we will be walking thiscoming Sunday I thought to myself what dedication what a love for our community Mike has! So this last Sunday Mike and I walked an older neighborhood on the East Side. We were blessed to have Council Person Jeff Moore join us. We met with about 20-25 people. Again, we spoke with people who were mowing their lawns, visiting with neighbors, out walking or just being outside.

What a beautiful day it was for one of our Belonging Revolution walks. Everyone we encountered, except one, seemed very happy to live in Longmont and in their neighborhood. What great human spirit we found. People believed and felt they belonged and many were willing to get involved in other endeavors in our community.

There was Ruth Ann who told us she is getting continually harassed by her ex-husband and did not know where to go or what to do. Mike assured her he would look into her situation. Otherwise, she said she loved Longmont and felt safe.

We also met a number of people who only spoke Spanish. I was able to interpret for Mike and Jeff. What a sight it is to see people like Mike and Jeff giving of their time to be with those in our community who may feel somewhat isolated because they only speak Spanish and for them to know that they are appreciated and that their voice is as powerful as anyone else's. Sometimes the children in these cases see their moms and dads talking with a council person or the police chief and seem proud that their mom and dad can have these kinds of discussions. Wow - that is what belonging is all about!!!

Again, we heard great appreciation for us being in their neighborhood and checking in on folks. This walk confirmed that we are doing things right here in Longmont. I know we brightened some people's days and opened up some hearts to new possibilities.

There is a Spanish Dicho (saying) “Que Suerte La Mia” which literally translates to what luck mine! And oh how true that is for me as I will never be able to thank Chief Butler enough for asking me over a year ago to accompany him on these walks to accompany him in starting his “Belonging Revolution” which for sure, is a great happening!

Thank you

Dan Benavidez

From Council member Jeff Moore

I am continually amazed at the community spirit and friendliness of Longmont's citizens. During our walk we asked about how safe the neighborhood feels, contacts with police and fire, awareness of council issues, and general comments on the community and neighborhoods. I want to commend Dan and Mike for conducting these walks over the past year. Getting out and talking to individuals takes commitment and caring about the community and is an opportunity for direct feedback in a casual setting.

Thank you for inviting me to accompany Mike and yourself on this walk.

Jeff Moore
Longmont City Council Ward 2

Restorative Practices show up in many ways. There is a year old restorative practice happening in Longmont, Colorado with two generous and curious men. Dan Benavidez is a long time Longmont resident who has served his cmmunity ion many capacities. From Mayor Pro-temp to board member of Teaching Peace, Eco-Cycle and many other organizations he has represented the Latino community with heart and commitment. These days Dan is literally walking his talk about building strong, cohesive communities by walking Longmont neighborhoods with Director of Public Safety, Mike Butler as they venture forth in the “The Belonging Revolution”. Mike has served Longmont for two decades as Chief of Police and now Director of Public Safety. He makes a habit of engaging innovative strategies for connecting “public” and “safety”. His latest innovation is to be an ambassador for Belonging in Longmont. The city’s slogan is, “You belong in Longmont”, and these two are bringing that notion to life. Dan has been capturing notes and sharing them after each walk. The above is an excerpt from Dan and Mike’s “Belonging Revolution” walks.


Colorado Leads the Nation in Pioneering Restorative Justice Laws

Colorado Leads the Nation in Pioneering Restorative Justice Laws

Shannon Sliva, PhD, LMSW, is a guest contributor from the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Denver, where she will join the faculty this fall as an Assistant Professor. Dr. Sliva teaches community practice and restorative justice, and conducts national and local research on innovative alternatives in criminal justice policy. She can currently be contacted at drshannonsliva@gmail.com.

Restorative justice practices have been used increasingly over the past three decades in a variety of settings – including schools, law enforcement, courts, and communities – to address harms ranging from personal disputes to criminal offenses to community violence. Recent research reveals that 32 states have begun to incorporate the use of restorative justice practices into their criminal lawbooks through formal legislation.

Restorative Justice Laws Across the U.S.

32 states currently have at least one RJ law in place. Yellow blocks represent laws which mention RJ, but do so without much structure. Red blocks represent laws with high levels of structure like funding and staff.

Colorado leads the nation in legal support for restorative justice. Via statutes in the state criminal code and children’s code, Colorado promotes the use of restorative justice in school disciplinary settings, criminal and juvenile courts, and the Department of Corrections. In 2013, Colorado lawmakers mandated the initiation of pilot programs in four judicial districts – Pueblo, Alameda, Boulder, and Weld – to screen cases for restorative justice practices as a first response to many juvenile crimes. In 2015, eligible cases were expanded to include petty offenses, misdemeanors, and felony 3-6 level offenses.

My research on legislative processes in Texas and Colorado suggests that the passage of such significant restorative justice laws in Colorado has been promoted by key actions of concerned legislators like sponsoring Representative Pete Lee, open communication and collaboration with district attorneys and victim’s advocates, and grassroots organization of lots of local restorative justice practices. Colorado is now positioned as a national model to help other states decide how restorative justice laws can work for them, and how to advocate successfully for their passage.

Do you work with a program which has been impacted by new restorative justice laws? If so, I’d love to hear how these laws are working for you. Email me your success stories and challenges at drshannonsliva@gmail.com.

A complete directory of U.S. restorative justice laws is updated on a regular basis by the Consortium for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution at Georgia State University College of Law. Visit www.rjclearinghouse.org to read the Colorado statutes or see what another state has on the books.
Citation: Sliva, S. M., & Lambert, C. G. (2015). Restorative Justice Legislation in the American States: A Statutory Analysis of Emerging Legal Doctrine. Journal of Policy Practice, 14(2), 77-95.


The Belonging Revolution goes to torn neighborhoods in Longmont CO

POST BY Dan Benavidez

With all the negative, stressful and oh so very depressing things I see in the media and all the bad that is going on in our world I sometimes want to go hide my head in the sand! But then I go on a walk with Mike and oh my! I just know it’s going to be okay.

Mike recommended that we walk the two neighborhoods that experienced the tragedies over the last several days - so we did. We thought these neighborhoods were in need of healing so we wanted to immerse ourselves in their midst. We talked to people in both neighborhoods.

We could see that people were feeling anxiety and fear when we initially started our conversations. But the more we talked, the more people became themselves and started to open up and became friendly with laughter and feelings of warmth and kindness. Long conversations with a few people gave us insight into their sense of loss in their neighborhood. A few said we needed to focus more on the mental illness issues in our community. These walks, more than any others, left Mike and I believing we need our 'Belonging Revolution' more than ever.

Mike's perspective - We felt a different kind of emotion today. Given that we walked the neighborhoods that suffered from the two tragedies that is no surprise. I felt a sense of reverence for people who lived close to these incidents. I wanted to hug each of them and to let them know it is going to be ok. They are part of our community and to hear their pain was truly a sacred experience for me. I could not shake the feeling of a little sadness as they spoke of a tear in their neighborhood fabric. This is my community and one that I love. To sense and feel their loss greatly enhanced my belief that our belonging revolution is so necessary.

Like Mike said and I concur this is also my community which I love dearly and that I am ever so lucky to live in. More and more I realize from all our walks and talks with our neighbors that it is time for a “Belonging Revolution” And I will do all I can to help Mike to continue to make happen a “Belonging Revolution”.

Yes! I will help make a community that that no matter your color, race, ethnicity, religion, economic status, or position in the power structure that we know and feel that we all “BELONG”

Thank you,

Dan Benavidez

Dan Benavidez is a long time Longmont resident who has served his community in many capacities. From Mayor Pro-temp to board member of Teaching Peace, Eco-Cycle and many other organizations he has represented the Latino community with heart and commitment. These days Dan is literally walking his talk about building strong, cohesive communities by walking Longmont neighborhoods with Director of Public Safety, Mike Butler as they venture to begin “The Belonging Revolution”. Mike has served Longmont for two decades as Chief of Police and now Director of Public Safety. He makes a habit of engaging innovative strategies for connecting “public” and “safety”. His latest innovation is to be an ambassador for Belonging in Longmont. The city’s slogan is, “You belong in Longmont”, and these two are bringing that notion to life. Dan has been capturing notes and sharing them after each walk.


2015 Colorado RJ Bill passes both chambers unanimously!

Colorado HB15-1094, Restorative Justice legislation introduced by Representative Pete Lee, and co-sponsored by Senators Cooke and Newell has now passed both the house and the senate unanimously!

This legislation has bipartisan support to expand the use of restorative justice practices in Colorado allowing the juvenile diversion restorative justice pilots projects established in 2013 to serve petty offenses, misdemeanors and felony 3-6 level offenses. It gives district attorneys the discretion to refer first-time offenders and others and continues to keep restorative justice practices in Colorado victim-centered. This encourages restorative justice programs around the state to consider similar practices.

It also creates three new seats on the Restorative Justice Council adding a judge, a public defender and a law enforcement representative. Having these stakeholders at the table engages a fuller spectrum of voices for the use of restorative justice practices from prevention through the courts and beyond.

The bill also makes it possible to expand the funding sources for this paradigm shifting work in Colorado. With the possibility of revenue from trainings and conferences, gifts, grants and donations the RJ Council may be able to expand their support to new and existing restorative justice programs around the state beyond what they are currently able to do.

Representative Lee talks about restorative justice in this YouTube video.

It is an exciting time for restorative justice practices in Colorado.


Victim-Centeredness and Restorative Practices

In the field of restorative justice practices we often hear that restorative justice is all about the offender and what they need. That is understandable since much of what is written on restorative justice practices is about holding offenders accountable and reducing recidivism. Language in restorative justice legislation, restorative justice research and other restorative justice publications often talks about benefits to offenders and the community. That is important information as we work toward increasing the use of restorative justice in the criminal justice system..

Restorative Justice Practices and Principles with Juveniles of All Ages

This article from the New York Times inspired a conversation among a group of Colorado restorative justice practitioners working together to spread the values and principles of restorative justice practices beyond schools and the criminal justice system to our communities, families and workplaces. One member of the group shared the article and said, “It speaks of how the use of restorative principles can help us avoid some pretty sad consequences that come about when we use punishment, exclusion as well as blaming and shaming.

Another member of the group had this to share:

That is an extraordinary article and equally relevant to older children such as those we at Youth Transformation Center serve in alternative high schools. Many of our youth are suffering from daily trauma in their homes and even in our schools which, in turn, oftentimes causes them to act out--to see if anyone is paying attention. What I saw in this article was compassionate listening for understanding rather than knee jerk reactions or snap judgments.

There was a recent case in a school we're working with right now with a high school senior who threw his cell phone at a computer screen out of frustration this last week and broke the screen.

We had just done a RJ circle with this young man 3 days before because of his consistently breaking the dress code rule. He responded with genuine respect and said we'd "opened his eyes" that he was sabotaging his own future by rebelling and always "testing" staff who generally reacted with disrespectful remarks to the youth. We spent considerable time with the staff and the principal to inform them that this young man (like all our children) was worth saving and we shared some of the things the 16 year old had said about why he left his violent home and was now living with a girlfriend and her family. Clearly these were underlying, unresolved traumas at the root of his anger and lack of emotional control. Long story short, because of our compassion not only for the youth but for the staff, the boy now has a second chance to come back to school and finish up his last 2 credits to get his high school diploma, something that more than likely would not have happened had RJ not been in the picture. Instead, he might have been another casualty of the punitive system, been kicked out of school, been charged with a misdemeanor of property damage, and consequently failed to graduate...with fewer options for furthering his education, going into the military or getting a job paying more than the minimum wage.

Thanks for the article which I will share with staff at that young man's school.


JEANNETTE HOLTHAM - Author of Taking Restorative Justice to Schools: A Doorway to Discipline and co-author of Ten Surefire Ways to Transform Troubled Youth. Ms. Holtham is the president and founder of Youth Transformation Center and a recognized leader in Colorado’s restorative justice movement and serves on the Pikes Peak Restorative Justice Council board of directors. She has been instrumental in helping to drive milestone legislation to make restorative justice more predominant in the judicial, corrections and school systems. She has directly worked with more than 3,000 high-risk youth in alternative schools, detention centers and prisons throughout Colorado, Texas, Wyoming, and the country of Malta. Prior to starting Youth Transformation Center Jeannette worked for JA Worldwide (Junior Achievement) for nine years and served as Director of Organizational Leadership. In 2003 she received the Excellence in Communication Award from Regis University having graduated summa cum laude with a BA in communications.

Youth Transformation Center is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to helping youth take full responsibility for their actions and their lives so they may reach their full potential.

Short descriptions of the two books can be found on amazon.com at the following links.

Taking Restorative Justice to Schools: A doorway to discipline

Ten Surefire Ways to Transform Troubled Youth

Jeannette Holtham
President and Founder

Youth Transformation Center
9979 Blackbird Circle
Highlands Ranch, CO 80130

(719) 440-1983

Author: "Taking Restorative Justice to Schools: A Doorway to Discipline"
Co-author: "Ten Surefire Ways to Transform Troubled Youth" on Kindle



We wish to thank all those who have generously donated your time and contributions to the Youth Transformation Center mission over the years. It is your generosity that has made the difference in the lives of more than 3,000 youth considered “at-risk” who now have the opportunity to reach for their big dreams just like other young people. THANK YOU! We are truly and eternally grateful. If you know of others who may wish to join us in this exciting and rewarding work as a volunteer mentor, a guest speaker with an inspiring story of overcoming to tell, or who may wish to make a tax deductible donation, please contact us through www.youthtransformationcenter.org.