(250) 489-8999

Welcome to Cranbrook and District Restorative Justice Society

Trauma-Informed Practice and Restorative Justice

Trauma is often described as an incident, or series of events, which overwhelm an individual’s ability to cope, to make sense of the incident and adequately address or deal with the emotions involved in that experience.  The incident was unexpected, the individual was unprepared and unable to control the outcome.  Trauma-informed.ca
“ … the symptoms of traumatised people simultaneously call attention to the existence of an unspeakable secret and deflect attention from it.”  Judith Herman, “Trauma and Recovery”
What is to be done when we are faced with an incident that may be traumatic, compel those involved to share and equally avoid those memories and during the process of remembering and relaying that memory, have that story change naturally with telling?  In order to treat individuals with dignity and equality, consideration has to be given to the effects of trauma on both memory and behaviour.
Reflecting on 14 years of Restorative Justice facilitation, being subjected to crime, as either victim and their community of support or additionally the offender and their community of support, can be a traumatic event.  Crime has brought those individuals together because of the uncontrolled nature of the incident and the associated emotions and experiences it generates.
Restorative Justice is a court alternate approach.  The offender indicates and accepts their involvement in the crime or incident and their willingness to address the harm created by their actions.  This is a critical step toward supporting trauma-informed practice and resolutions.

Detail, Emotions and Memory

When a person becomes traumatized to the level of “Flight and Fight”, the primitive centers of the brain are in control.  This response has the specific and essential function of taking the individual away from danger or preparing for physical conflict.  Fine memory detail is not essential during “Flight and Fight” and is not present on recall. “It was a bear! I was too busy running to tell you what colour it was.”
In Restorative Practice, the emotions experienced by the individual during, and subsequent, to the event are just as important as the details of the incident.  The initial admission of responsibility by the offender allows for a greater focus to be spent on identifying who and how others have been affected by the incident; all of which is essential to readdressing harm done.

Control, Community and Punishment

Our behaviour as we pass through the phases of society is defined by predictable responses.  One of the elements of trauma is the unpredictable nature of the outcome; being unprepared. Punishment models are based on penalties or sanctions imposed for the infringement of an institutionalised rule or expectation –  fighting in hockey is a major penalty and 5 minutes in the box is awarded for the purposes of reflecting on future life choices.
Loss of control is an element of the trauma response.  In Restorative Practice, the outcome or the actions taken by the offender and others to address the harm done is designed and determined through consensus of those present in the forum.  Everyone’s opinion is treated equally and with respect.  The outcomes generated through this process are victim and community centered and can vary greatly depending on the needs of those present in the forum and the circumstances of the harm done – no penalty box.  The only precondition to the eventual agreement is that it cannot further traumatize or stigmatize the victim, offender or their communities of support.
In conclusion, there is a need for both court and diversion-based approaches to crime.  Not every incident of crime lends itself to court diversion and not every individual responsible for an inappropriate act is willing to take responsibility for their actions.  Some activities, such as hockey, would be very unrewarding if on the determination of penalty, play stopped and players directly involved in the incident were encouraged to talk about how the event affected them and others.
There is, however, considerable discussion and research on the effect of traumatic events on subsequent behaviour and quality of life for those affected.  It is for those reasons that Restorative Practice focuses on being Trauma-Informed Practice.
Doug McPhee
Program Coordinator
Cranbrook and District Restorative Justice Society


Contact Information

Mailing Address

PO BOX 533 Stn. Main

Cranbrook, BC


Physical Address

Office 210

125 10th Ave S

Cranbrook, BC


Office: (250) 489-8999

Other: (250) 489-9622

Email: doug.mcphee@me.com

Office Hours

Monday to Friday

9:00 AM to 12:00 PM

Afternoons and Evenings as Required