Benefits of Restorative Reentry Circles for Children of Incarcerated Parents in Hawai'i
Walker, Tarutani & McKibben, International Perspectives and Empirical Findings on Child Participation: From Social Exclusion to Child-Inclusive Policies, (Eds. Gal & Duramy), Oxford University Press, 2015
21 Pages Posted: 30 Sep 2015 Last revised: 15 Apr 2017
Date Written: January 6, 2015
Hawai’i has been experimenting with a restorative reentry planning process for incarcerated people who are accountable for past harmful behavior and/or the harm their imprisonment has caused, and who want to make amends with their children, other harmed loved ones, and the community at large. Between 2005 and 2013, 100 circles were provided for 494 participants including approximately 42 children between 4 and age 28. This evaluation looked at the “healing” effects of the circles on children. Healing was operationalized by rating the children’s ability to move past the trauma of losing their parent to incarceration. A scale of one to five was developed to quantify subjects’ self-perceived changes after the circle intervention. Open-ended questions concerning healing were also asked. Twenty-eight respondents participated in telephonic interviews. The authors’ experience with this work was used for this research. Lorenn Walker developed the reentry circle model and facilitated most of those reported in this paper; Cheri Tarutani is a former child protection social worker who participated in a circle on behalf of a child whose father was imprisoned, and has since recorded numerous circles including several reported here; and Diana McKibben, a doctoral student whose area of interest is restorative justice observed the circles for research purposes. The evaluation yielded promising indications that the reentry circles increase healing for children. Restorative justice in general, and reentry circles in particular, provide a powerful participatory arena for children in making decisions regarding their parents' release from prison. This paper describes research findings, and identifies how the circles make child participation meaningful through characteristics of restorative justice. The circles cannot completely address the harsh inequities that children of incarcerated parents suffer, but as shown here they can help them address trauma and provide an opportunity for their parents to be positive role models despite their criminal behavior and imprisonment.
Keywords: reentry circles, restorative justice, public health, solution-focused brief therapy, healing, trauma, forgiveness, optimism, therapeutic jurisprudence, integrative law
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation