What we learned from Mashaun Hendricks and Local Legends Films

By Ellie Mejía

Mashaun Hendricks presents at our 99th Public Newsroom. (Photo: Harry Backlund)

Mashaun Hendricks presents at our 99th Public Newsroom. (Photo: Harry Backlund)

On March 14, we hosted our 99th Public Newsroom with staff at Local Legends Films, a video production company, and Mashaun Hendricks, a restorative justice practitioner who helped them integrate RJ practices into their workplace.

Restorative justice has a lot of buzz lately, but who in Chicago is practicing it?

In the past, we have hosted Public Newsrooms (12) on restorative justice in a legal context. In 2017, City Bureau reporters followed the Restorative Justice Community Court in North Lawndale, which opened July of the same year. There, young adults accused of non-violent crimes can opt into a process where they, their victims, members of the community and court staff sit in peace circles to develop a repair-of-harm agreement. The approach is meant to center community accountability as opposed to punishment.

Restorative justice is also at work in classrooms, sometimes led by nonprofits who offer to facilitate programming, like Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI) or Umoja, and sometimes by students. The Peace Warriors, a student group at North Lawndale College Prep, run peace circles to mediate conflicts between their peers and support classmates who have lost loved ones to gun violence.

When she started Local Legends Films, founder Jayme Joyce employed seasoned professionals and apprentice employees. Early on, she knew she wanted to foster a working culture that was based on a restorative justice framework. With Hendricks’ guidance, they have brought in RJ practices and now sit in a peace circle every Wednesday.

(Photo: Eliza Lambert, Local Legends Films)

(Photo: Eliza Lambert, Local Legends Films)

“We’ve been spending the time getting acquainted, building relationships and discussing our values and commitments; the first three steps of the peace circle process,” said Christine Fugate, director of operations. She explained that when conflict does arise, it’s typically resolved in a “mini circle,” where the two staff members in disagreement work with the help of a mediator to come to a resolution. “After we hold these mini circles, grievances have been aired and cleared and everyone feels lighter, even the rest of the team who has sensed the tension between the two members,” said Fugate.

At the Public Newsroom, Hendricks took the time to make sure attendees had a foundational understanding of restorative justice. He explained restorative justice is not just a process to address and remedy wrongdoing, but a philosophy that prioritizes relationship-building. Unlike a typical punitive model, where the threat of punishment deters people from breaking rules, a restorative justice model asks participants to consider their accountability to one another.

Hendricks and Local Legends staff emphasized the importance of taking things slowly. “A big part of RJ is shedding the Western pace of tactics, productivity and process and adopting a much slower healing pace of building relationship,” Joyce said. “I only hope that more organizations will see the value in this and be willing to pay the price and investment of time, energy, active contribution to fully adopting this culture.”

We ended the evening with an activity about how to incorporate restorative justice into our work. See the prompt in the tweet below.

If you’re interested in learning more about restorative justice, you can sign up for a workshop with Hendricks in the upcoming months. In the meantime, to get a sense for the basics of restorative justice, listen to our audio recording below.

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