a little more peace

a little more peace

Recently retired, Darrel Heidebrecht recorded stories, memories, perspectives and his interpretations of those stories reflecting on his career in restorative justice. He initially wrote so his children and grandchildren would know what he did. That family manuscript is now the book a little more peace in the world:  Reflections on my Experience with Restorative Justice.

Asked why he wrote and then self-published this book, he replied that his experience taught him that institutional memory is short. By putting his manuscript in book form there would be a record that Mennonite Central Committee Alberta had a commitment to restorative justice in this province and a record of the partnerships MCC Alberta developed.

In the book, Heidebrecht reflects on pivotal moments in what he calls his accidental career. Moments where he crossed a threshold and couldn’t go back — experiences with Native Ministries, attending seminary, and then working with M2/W2 (Man to Man, Woman to Woman) a MCC prison visitation ministry. He found himself the director of a prison ministry before he had ever been in a prison. Working with M2/W2 he saw injustices and struggled to know what to do with them. For example, the prison was easier to access by volunteers than by family members, but addressing that fact could put the M2/W2 program at risk — the result, an ethical dilemma.

His trip in 1997 to the International Conference of Penal Abolition in Auckland, New Zealand was one of these pivotal moments. This conference opened his eyes to what restorative justice could be, a fundamental re-focusing of criminal justice issues. New Zealand was already implementing Family Group Conferences, with family members of both victims and offenders participating in a process in hope of mutual restoration. Could something similar be done here?   

Calgary Community Conferencing (CCC, which later was re-configured as RAFT, Restorative Actions for Transformation) was a collaborative effort between MCC, the City of Calgary, Calgary Board of Education and the John Howard Society. Like Family Group Conferences, CCC brought together young offenders and their victims. The challenge of a CCC conference was that both parties were given permission to fail. There was always the chance that the interactions would “go sideways.” And yet, more often than not, creating space for the process also created the potential for change in a very short time frame. Although RAFT has been discontinued, Heidebrecht holds to the hope that the spirit of restorative justice cannot be quenched and that in another form a restorative justice program will be born again.

Heidebrecht’s passion for restorative justice resonates throughout the book. He believes that restorative justice embraces you. As it focuses on accountability and responsibility it forces you to struggle with your own weakness. He learned as director of M2/W2 and in his work with CCC and RAFT that “Why don’t we try that?” opens both literal and figurative doors and has the potential to create a little more peace in individuals and in the world.

To purchase: dgheidebrecht@gmail.com

Or through CommonWord  https://www.commonword.ca