The San Quentin Interfaith Restorative Justice quarterly symposiums are powerful. Incarcerated folks and outside guests alike, gather together for an all day event.
Symposiums focus on a topic relevant to Restorative Justice and to society at large. For many symposium guests this is their first time being introduced to a restorative roundtable and perhaps their first time in a prison.
These special Saturdays change us, heal us, inspire us. We thought it was important to highlight some voices of past attendees as an example of the symposiums and the work being done inside.
If you have attended a symposium and you would like to share your experience please do so here
The San Quentin Interfaith Restorative Justice Symposium this past March was a truly transformative experience for me. I was impressed with how well-organized the event was and with the articulate, heartfelt presentations that were made by the inmate organizers and the outside presenter. Participating in the circles was an incredibly powerful and moving experience and I was deeply touched by the raw emotions and very personal reflections that were shared by all the participants, including those of us from the community. I left there convinced of the healing power of this restorative justice process.
I was blown away by the warmth, trust, and vulnerability shown by both the SQ population and those who came from outside. The men inside talked frequently, openly, and with profound emotional intelligence about their realizations that living in states of hyper-masculinity had perpetuated cycles of violence and impeded opportunities to heal. Many of them had been experiencing the dehumanizing effects of our justice system their entire adult lives, yet still made the decision to do the extremely difficult work of exploring their own trauma and the trauma they imposed on others in order to do better for themselves and others. They have so much pride in this program and faith in its effectiveness.
I have been struggling to find words to describe the impact of this symposium on my life. There is no one in my personal life who has been incarcerated, and it was an unexpectedly profound day. The men I met were insightful, thoughtful, and kind. They were unflinchingly brave about confronting the consequences of their actions. In my daily life as a physician, I rarely hear people confront even minor slights to others with as much honesty and understanding as these men did for these serious actions. By generously sharing details of their lives that contributed to their crimes, I am reminded that bad behavior needs a closer look - I am more effective in my daily life as a result. Thank you to all who participated.
From the first step I made while entering the grounds of San Quentin I was very moved emotionally by this new adventure. Not knowing what to expect but opening my heart for this new journey. When I began meeting the men and others in the program my emotions were challenged with the overwhelming love I felt by each and every member I shook hand with and looked into their eyes and my soul was touched.
I had the privilege of attending a Restorative Justice Symposium at San Quentin in June 2017. The day's speakers, both from the inside and from the outside, spoke of the impact restorative practices have had in their own lives – all remarkable testimonials. Meeting the men inside and sitting in circle with them was truly humbling: many of their life circumstances & experiences are vastly different from my own, and yet through the circle, we were able to be in community and bear witness to each others' humanity. I came away wishing restorative practices were integrated more broadly in our country's justice system, both for the sake of individuals and for whole communities. Participating in this symposium is an experience I will never forget.
This program was a life-changing experience for me. It's an opportunity to experience empathy and offer love and support to a segment of society that's often forgotten about. It was a heart opening experience where everyone saw the humanity in each other as they held space for each other's emotions. I'm a better person for having participated.