The Permaculture Podcast

    Episode 1463: Restorative Justice with Melanie G. Snyder


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    …we are all more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.

    Bryan Stevenson. Executive Director, Equal Justice Initiative

    My guest for this episode is Melanie G. Snyder, author of Grace Goes to Prison who works on issues of restorative justice and prisoner re-entry. You can find out more information about her and her work at

    One of the core ideas of her work is “prison as a last resort” and that forms the theme for this interview, and how restorative justice, and rehabilitation and treatment programs impact in a positive way the people and communities who use these options. I see this conversation as an important way for permaculture practitioners to apply what we know, especially among those with sociology, psychology, law, or criminal justice backgrounds, to engage the system that exists and create a better world that values all the people who are a part of it.

    This very candid conversation touches on a number of stories of people from my life impacted by the criminal justice system. Melanie’s work and this conversation matter to me, and from speaking with many other people it matters to them, too, because of their loved ones who could have been saved if other options existed. Listen if you know anyone who has ever had a negative interaction with the law and consider how implementing restorative justice and re-entry programs in your community help create a better world.

    Work like Melanie’s is important for breaking us out of the mold of current thinking and shows that other systems are possible. We don’t live in an unchangeable machine, we’re not cogs or sprockets. We are part of a dynamic living system and we can change it to be more kind, more peaceful, and more beneficial to all.

    The Four Questions of Restorative Justive

    1. Who has been harmed by a crime?
    2. What are their needs?
    3. Who should be accountable for addressing the needs and harms that were caused by the crime?
    4. What can be done to address the harm?

    Melanie G. Snyder
    The Center for Community Peacemaking
    Lancaster County RMO
    Restorative Justice Online
    National Association of Community and Restorative Justice
    The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

    Melanie’s TedX Talk: Breaking Out of Prison Thinking

    Recommended Listening

    Class Announcements

    Permie Kids Edge Alliances
    Sunday, August 31st 8:30-9:30 p.m. (EST)

    Thanks, Brian, from Walking Elephant Theatre Company for joining us to contemplate the following questions:

    • What challenges do we face today and how can theatre start to help us address these issues with children?
    • How can we use theatre to enrich active, self-empowered learning?
    • What are some ways that we can use theatre to help us and our children connect with community?

    Sunday, September 7th 1:00-2:00 p.m. (EST)

    Thanks, David, from Rites of Passage Experience (ROPE) and The Center for the Advancement of Youth, Family, and Community Services for inspiring us to think about the following:

    • What is a healthy, normal transition for children into community?
    • What are rites of passage and how have been/are rites of passage experienced in different cultures throughout the world and time?
    • What does this mean for what our children need from us as parents/educators the the greater community and what does this mean for what the greater community needs from the children?

    Sunday, September 7th 6:00-7:00 p.m. (EST)

    Collaborate with other educators and parents from Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO) on the following questions:

    • What does it mean to be a mathematical person?
    • What have we, the educators, experienced throughout our lives that have helped us develop a playful attitude and curious nature towards mathematics?
    • How can we explore and approach math with children in a way that meets them not only where they are, but also where they are going?

    Sunday, September 21st 1:00-2:00 p.m. (EST)

    Meet Kelly and educator from Mother Earth School and Marissa, a PERMIE KIDs parent, educator, and founder of PermaCognition who recently attended the Advanced Permaculture for Youth and Child Educators program, and join us for a lively discussion on the following questions:

    • What sort of knowledge, concepts, or skills are needed to have a solid foundation as a permaculture youth and child educator?
    • What sort of things are integrated into the environment of a permaculture-minded educator?
    • How does our own and our shared story influence us as educators and our children? How can we use storytelling as an educational tool?

    How can I help you create a better world? Get in touch.

    Phone: 717-827-6266

    The Permaculture Podcast with Scott Mann
    P.O. Box 16
    Dauphin, PA 17018

    Twitter: @permaculturecst

    (Episode: melanie)


    1. Zach ElfersZach Elfers
      September 2, 2014    

      This was a very hopeful talk to listen to, and especially relevant now in the wake of these Ferguson events! Thank you Melanie and Scott. A thought I had while listening was about the Peacemaking tradition, which comes down to us from the Great Peacemaker of Iroquois Five (now six) Nations heritage. It is a little known fact these days, but founding fathers such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were personally mentored in the ways of Peacemaking by Mohawk elders. It is from emulation of the Iroquois Confederation that the United States gets it’s system of checks and balances based around the protection of liberty. Anyway, at the risk of rambling on, one phrase from US law sticks out to me: “a jury of their peers.” I believe the original intent of this statement was far humbler than how it is practiced today. A jury of the defendants peers meant literally the people of his town and community who knew him personally and could judge his character most faithfully. The jury selection process these days is almost anyway but “a jury of ones peers.” So could it be that restorative justice was foundational to the US Constitution and Bill of Rights, though now perverted and no longer practiced?

      • Melanie G. SnyderMelanie G. Snyder
        September 8, 2014    

        Thank you for these thoughtful observations, Zach! I appreciated the connection you made with the Iroquois Confederation and the original definition of “jury of their peers.” Here in PA, we have “Youth Aid Panels” in the juvenile justice system, which, while not a jury of “peers”, is at least a panel of adults from the young person’s own community, representing key stakeholder groups in the community (business, education, religious groups, etc) who talk with the young person about the harm he/she has caused, and then as a group, come up with an appropriate plan of how the young person can address the harm by various ways of “giving back” to the community. I love your idea that restorative justice (or its principles at least) may have been foundational to what the Founders had in mind in developing the US Constitution and Bill of Rights.

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