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‘Repair the harm:’ Deschutes County DA’s Office concludes inaugural three-day Oregon Restorative Justice workshop

(Update: adding videos, comments from District Attorney's Office, guest speaker)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office hosted a three-day "Expanding Restorative Justice in Oregon" workshop that concluded Wednesday, in partnership with Community Solutions of Central Oregon, Thrive Central Oregon and Deschutes Defenders.

Closing-day guest speaker Jane Piper, a survivor of sexual assault, explained: "There's the person who causes harm, and there's a person who experiences harm. And if you talk to that person who's on the other side of violence from you, who hasn't caused your violence, but who caused it to someone else, you can heal, and both people can heal. And restorative justice allows you that opportunity."

Piper says restorative justice helped her move forward from her trauma through connecting her with previous offenders of the same crime that was committed against her.

"It's an alternative form of healing, and it gives you the it gives you agency back," Piper said. "It's like when you experience violence or you experience harm, trauma of some kind, you lose control, you lose a sense of yourself."

Kathleen Meehan Coop, the management analyst for the DA's office, said, "There are a lot of opportunities for harm to be repaired, as well as to create an environment where the responsible party, the person, who caused that harm, for them to change the trajectory of their life. Restorative justice often is the best option in certain circumstances to be able to allow those things to happen."

Meehan Coop says restorative justice aims to reduce the number of repeat offenders in the criminal justice system. The  workshop's goal was to help improve programs across the state, an effort that started three years ago.

"The most valuable part is having all of us come together and learn from each other," she said. "We have some great presentations, but restorative justice comes in a lot of different formats."

The DA's office received $80,000 in grant money for the workshop, which included brainstorming sessions with organizations sharing challenges.

Local community partners include Community Solutions of Central Oregon, Thrive Central Oregon, Deschutes Defenders, and the Public Defenders office.

"We're trying to repair the harm that's been caused to the victims," said Meehan Coop. "A lot of times, the traditional system isn't the best method."

Piper says her experience taught her restorative justice can allow for the offender to move forward.

"They're working on themselves, and doing this deep work and accountability work they are in touch with," she said. "They've let go of the shame. And they're moving on, and they're dedicated to a non nonviolent existence."

Meehan Coop says there's a misconception restorative justice amounts to a slap on the wrist, and criminals aren't held accountable. She believes it's actually the opposite.

With the success of this first year event at The Riverhouse on the Deschutes Convention Center, the DA's office hopes to receive funding to host this workshop again next year. 

It's intended to foster dialogue, share best practices, and explore innovative approaches to advancing restorative justice principles across Oregon.

The workshop brought together key stakeholders, including prosecutors, law enforcement, victim advocates, and restorative justice practitioners, to engage in what organizers hoped would be insightful discussions and collaborative problem-solving sessions.

Participants learned from experts in the field, shared their experiences, and explored practical strategies for implementing restorative justice practices in their communities.

Keynote presentations, interactive panels and breakout sessions were scheduled covering a wide range of topics, including funding, data collection, restorative justice diversion programs, partnership development, and volunteer recruitment and training.

Asked how he would define restorative justice, Gunnels told us earlier: "Restorative justice is one model or approach in the criminal justice system designed to address the needs of victims of crime (restitution and attempting to make the victim whole in any way possible), hold offenders accountable for the harm they’ve caused, and take steps to set the offender on a better path going forward through treatment, rehabilitation and often punishment.

"This approach is not appropriate in all cases, but there are some where it meets the needs of the victim and gives the offender a better chance of being better at the end of the process than where they began," the district attorney added.

Key presenters included:

·       Representative Jason Kropf, State Representative of Oregon House District 54 – Legislative Update.

·       Motus Theater’s JustUs ProjectStories from the Frontlines of the Criminal Legal System

·       Dr. Katherine Beckett, Chair and Professor in the Department of Law, Societies and Justice and S. Frank Miyamoto Professor of Sociology at the University of Washington – Why Restorative Justice?

·       Jane Piper, Rape Survivor, Advocate for Survivors of Sexual Assault, and Restorative Justice Facilitator - The Other Side of Violence 

The District Attorney hosted the event in conjunction with its work on the Emerging Adult Program (EAP), a restorative justice initiative for 18-24-year-olds who have committed a crime in Deschutes County. The EAP and the workshop are supported by Award No. RJ-23-08 awarded by the State of Oregon, through its Criminal Justice Commission.

For more information on the Expanding Restorative Justice in Oregon Workshop or the Deschutes County Emerging Adult Program, visit:

·       Expanding Restorative Justice in Oregon Workshop -

·       EAP -

Motus Theater’s JustUs Project

Motus Theater is a theater company and non-profit founded in 2011 whose mission is to create original theater to facilitate dialogue on the critical issues of our time. Based in Boulder, Colorado, Motus Theater tells moving stories that move us forward, using the power of art to build alliances across diverse segments of our community. Over the last decade, Motus has created and presented acclaimed multimedia and autobiographical monologue projects on critical issues, including UndocuAmericaJustUs, and Transformative Stories.

To develop the JustUs project, Motus worked between 17 and 24 weeks with two groups of 8 formerly incarcerated leaders to create autobiographical monologues about the impact of the criminal justice system on their lives. The JustUs monologues premiered as a keynote at the National Association of Community and Restorative Justice Conference in front of 1,600 stakeholders in 2019. Since then, the JustUs monologues have been touring across the country, often presenting with leading district attorneys co-reading the stories with the JustUs monologists. JustUs has been featured in fifteen national and global conferences.

The JustUs performance presented at the “Expanding Restorative Justice” conference in Oregon is part of a national tour of Motus Theater’s JustUs project. In this special performance, three Oregon leaders in the criminal legal system will co-read autobiographical stories of formerly incarcerated men negatively impacted by the punitive focus and racial bias of the criminal legal system. Guest co-readers include: Police Chief Devin Lewis, Redmond Police Department; Joel Wirtz Executive Director Deschutes Public Defenders; and Deevy Holcomb, Community Justice Department Director, Deschutes County Community Justice.

JustUs Project (

Article Topic Follows: Crime And Courts

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