Jacob Mathis was a classic underachiever and troubled child.
The 15 year old’s grade point average was just 0.77 and by his own accord, he had “extreme anger problems” stemming from his relationship with his stepdad. His emotional turmoil often spilled over into school and affected his conduct in the classroom. After an incident in which he was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and making criminal threats, he was sentenced to probation.
Mathis’ life changed for the better after his probation officer recommended he enroll in a summer program at East Oakland teen and young adult center Youth Uprising - it utilized restorative justice, a community-focused, therapeutic process that addresses youth violence by helping perpetrators understand the roots of their anger and grasp how they have done others harm.
Restorative justice attempts to break the cycle of violence by addressing the underlying cause – often, a traumatic experience, such as physical or verbal abuse or witnessing a violent crime – and acknowledging the emotional impact of such trauma on young people. Through active communication, young people in restorative justice programs have been able to overcome their violent impulses.
By participating in Youth Uprising’s programs, Mathis said, “I learned how to sit down and talk to people about my issues. Now, it’s all good.”
Mathis said he’s even applied the restorative justice principles he’s learned to his own family dynamics. It’s allowed him to break a cycle of acting out and blaming others that could have easily led to jail. His grade point average is now up to 3.27 and not only has he not re-offended, but he now envisions going to college and studying marine biology at the University of Florida.
“I thought that because I’m from Oakland, nothing good is going to come from out of my life," said Mathis, before being exposed to restorative justice. "And now, I’m motivated to work harder in school.”
The piece goes on to discuss restorative justice in the city and schools in Oakland and also quotes IIRP president Ted Wachtel:
Ted Wachtel is the founder of the Pennsylvania-based International Institute for Restorative Practices, the world’s first accredited restorative justice graduate school program. He says the success Oakland schools and nonprofit organizations are having in using restorative justice principles and techniques to reduce youth violence is “very significant and very parallel to the kind of results we’re familiar with.”
Wachtel and other national leaders in the restorative justice movement hope that restorative practices can reform public education, decreasing violent crime while increasing school enrollment.
You can read the full post, written by Erik K. Arnold, here.