Center for Council's Jared Seide returned from two weeks in Rwanda, where a partnership was initiated with our friends at Rwanda Center for Council -- recently recognized by the Rwandan Governance Board as an official NGO -- and the Association of Rwandese Trauma Counselors (ARCT-Ruhuka). Using our council-based program model, developed in California prisons, and in collaboration with the Rwanda Correctional Service, this project will introduce and support council practice inside the Rwandan prisons — in addition to providing support and coaching to a growing network of community-based organizations throughout Rwandan civil society.
With the imminent release of over 20,000 former genocide perpetrators into communities where unspeakable crimes were committed, the Rwandan government and its people seem eager to embrace a model for deepening community resilience and affirming shared values. The resonance of council (or “Peace Circle”) with indigenous Rwandan traditions like ibitaramo is striking and we are thrilled to be partnering with local Rwandan peace workers in supporting the emergence of a program and a practice that serves this critical moment.
This Fall, The Rockefeller Foundation will host a delegation from California (including Inspector General Robert Barton and several others) and a delegation from Rwanda (including high-level government officials and NGO heads) in Bellagio, Italy, for three days, to look at what is working so well in these council-based prison/reentry programs, where the challenges may be, how to measure results and how to scale to the systems in California and Rwanda and, more broadly, to explore how this model may address the challenges faced by fractured communities around the world and foster reconciliation and resilience in a variety of contexts.
The intention of this work is to promote healing and principled behavior that can be framed and implemented in reentry contexts to address an intractable and growing problem for cities and communities—one that interferes with economic development, employability and peaceful coexistence. The overarching vision is to spur a more compassionate and restorative system of justice that supports rehabilitation for the world’s incarcerated offenders. The goal is to promote practices that will help both offenders and their victims—individuals and communities—to heal from their individual and collective traumas while developing resiliency. We believe the model being piloted in Rwanda and California is applicable to fractured communities around the world.
This conference will be facilitated by renown innovator and strategist Cheryl Heller and will help strengthen the California-Rwanda partnership, explore programmatic and implementation needs and vision strategy moving forward for this and other developing council-based programs. We are honored and excited to co-lead this effort, eager to share the emerging story and to continue to work with what develops from this important dialogue.