Saturday, April 30, 2016

Big Brother is Mentoring: How Lawyer Participation in Restorative Justice and Mentoring Programs Can Make Brevard a Stronger, Safer, & Healthier Community.

Here is a call out to my fellow attorneys to help bring more peace, respect, and kindness to Brevard County, while simultaneously helping to decrease the crime rate in three ways:
1.     Bringing back Restorative Justice.
2.     Joining the Be Kind Brevard Movement.
3.     Becoming a mentor to disadvantaged or at risk youth in our community.
After a downward decline in the 80s and 90s, there is a disturbing trend in the United States of increasing suicide rates across the board. What is most disturbing to me as a mother of a 14-year-old girl is that the greatest increase in the suicide rate was seen in girls 10 to 14 years of age. From 1999-2014, adolescent girls experienced the largest percent increase in suicides, tripling over 15 years from 0.5 to 1.7 per 100,000 people. I’m sure there are various reasons for this increase, from the breakdown of courtesy and civility in society to the proliferation of cyber-bullying. 
But I ask you this: Who will stop the bullying? 
And I answer you this: All of us will. We have to.
I don’t expect this to be a hard sell. Actually, I’m sure a lot of you got into law because you wanted to stand up for the picked on and the bullied. I know you wanted to empower yourselves and others to do what is right and to see more justice prevail in the world. The solution is complicated. We have tried Zero Tolerance. It hasn’t really worked. We have tried locking away every offender. It hasn’t really worked. These approaches are not addressing the root of the problem. 
It is time to bring awareness to more people in Brevard about (a) Restorative Justice, (b) the Be Kind Brevard Movement, and (c) the benefits of becoming a Mentor through one of several local programs.
The other day, Doug Beam approached me outside the Melbourne Courthouse talking about how Restorative Justice (RJ) would be helpful in a case he was working on. RJ is more than mediation. RJ is a process of creating communication between victims and offenders to come up with non-punitive solutions that are more satisfying and healing to the victim and that make it less likely for an offender to reoffend. RJ can be used in schools, workplaces, courtrooms, neighborhoods, and families. The use of RJ has been found to decrease the number of bullying incidents among school children, to manage the fallout and promote healing among those that have been harmed, and to address the root cause of the acting out of the perpetrator. 
Although I had read about RJ, I hadn’t studied it, let alone been certified in it. So I immediately sought out a class. I only found one. It is at the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding in Gainesville, Florida. Yes, THAT River Phoenix. The Center was established by the deceased actor’s mother, Heart Phoenix.
I’ve signed up for a class at the Center, May 11th and 12th. We will meet at the University of Florida Law School to learn RJ techniques. It is my intention to become a Restorative Justice Practitioner and to recruit some of you to join me, perhaps even put together a Restorative Justice CLE. Let’s see what I can learn about it first. 
I understand from one of my colleagues on the Be Kind Brevard, Inc. Board that some professionals from our Brevard County Schools will be joining me at this training, which makes me feel very hopeful. Learn more at!restorative-justice/co4dp
That Brings us to Be Kind Brevard, which is an incipient 501(c)(3) that partners with other groups in our community to try to make Brevard a kinder, safer place. Be Kind Brevard is a movement led by volunteer advocates to increase kindness and reduce all forms of bullying anytime, anywhere by anyone. We help provide trainings in schools, workplaces, and other forums and well as provide support and counseling for those who have experienced bullying. Please learn more at Also see and
Lastly, I have seen some literature, and intuitively it makes sense to me, that by creating opportunities for more mentoring relationships with responsible, caring adults who serve as positive role models and resources in the lives of underprivileged or at risk, or really any children, can make a huge difference in their self esteem, success, and future. First obviously we start with our own children. We must teach our children well. It is up to us parents to raise respectful, loving young people and to drum into our children's heads from an early age the importance of empathy, compassion, kindness, respect, courtesy, and civility. We must model courteous behavior. We must live it. We must teach our children to stand up for others and not stand by and let anyone be picked on or bullied. Now more than ever we need to be vigilant about how we treat one another. We must be the change we wish to see and, more importantly, teach our children to be the change we wish to see in the world. Then we should take it a step further and participate in programs that help kids in families that are not as blessed as our own. Mentors are needed for our youth in the following programs. You can be a hero in your community by signing up for one of the following. Trust me, you will love it.
Big Brothers Big Sisters in Brevard: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Florida's mission is to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally-supported relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.
By mentoring your "Little" for just 4 hours a month, you could positively impact their ambitions, perspective, and life. With Big Brothers Big Sisters, mentoring is flexible, rewarding, and FUN. For you it's a few hours exploring, crafting, or playing catch, for them it's a game changer. Call (407) 478-2996 or sign up online at
Take Stock in Children: Take Stock in Children is a Statewide Program that is manifested in Brevard County through the Brevard Schools Foundation. Take Stock is in need of mentors who will provide that one-on-one support to a deserving student who wants to succeed in school and achieve the dream of a college education. You can change a child’s life over lunch. Contact Del Jordan at or 321-633-1000,x415. Visit online for an application at
Brevard Family Partnership Youth Thrive Initiative: Mentors are needed for teens and young adults who have experience in the foster care system and have aged out. Contact Ashley Carraro at Brevard Family Partnership if you would like to be an inspiration and resource to a young adult seeking to be a productive and engaged member of society. Contact Ashley at 321-752-4650, x3022 or
Got questions? Contact me at or 321-626-2858
Together we can make Brevard a kinder, more peaceful, safer, and more successful community.