by Jennifer Guzzardi I am scattered. My mind is full, and my thoughts are spontaneous and temporary. I’m driving to SCI Phoenix. It’s been a while and I’ve volunteered to co-facilitate a two-day workshop. I hate public speaking. What if I blank? What if I don’t remember the content? I don’t want to look at my notes. I want to be… captivating... engaging… knowledgeable. But how? I should’ve spent more time preparing.
I’ve arrived at the parking lot. How am I here? I’ve forgotten the drive already. I hope I didn’t run a red light. I shuffle out of the car. What do I need? I don’t remember… I’m trying to hurry. I know I can’t miss the escort. Ugh, I need to go to the bathroom... what do I do? I can’t decide. Oh! My ID… where’s that? I scratch my head. I need to move along. As time advances, my choices evaporate. I have fewer options now.
Suddenly, I’m walking into an empty classroom. It’s quiet and barren. How am I here? The walk through the prison has lapsed without recognition. Click- the door closes behind me. I turn around quickly. The guard has disappeared, and I am alone. I sit and open my notebook.
When I look up, the room is full of people. Each participant is situated in his chair. I see a familiar face next to me and smile carelessly to acknowledge his presence. I look again at the notebook on my lap, but his gaze remains steady. I feel he wants more. “How are you?” he asks. His tone of voice sounds genuine. “Good,” I say hastily. I want the conversation to end. There is a lot on my mind and no time for subtle niceties. His body is still as he studies my response. His eyebrows are now closer together and his eyelids narrow. “No,” he states intently. I stare at him, confused. “No,” he says once more before proceeding. “Really… how are you?”
The noise of the room becomes silent. Caught. I feel like the child who tries to lie to her parent about the candy she ate before dinner. The familiar face is unconvinced. He knows me well enough and can see my attempt at deception.
I am catapulted back into reality and forced to face the truth. Prison. The ink-filled posters layer the white walls around me. My eyes focus on the slanted paper across the room: ‘RESTORATIVE JUSTICE’ is handwritten in bold print. I immediately remember why I’m here. It’s not about me. Restorative Justice… it’s about us. It’s about the community we have formed together and the relationships we continue to develop. It’s about the ability to create space for one another. There are no ‘right answers.’ It’s about asking questions and listening. Really listening.
I take a deep breath. “Well, I say…”
--Jen has been a member of LCU since 2017. She is passionate about restorative justice and has traveled abroad to study the practice in New Zealand. Jen is currently pursuing a law degree in hopes of further applying the principles of restorative justice and conflict resolution to the criminal justice system.