The Stone Stoup Project



             



"The Stone Soup Project is an ambitious collaborative effort on the part of RJ practitioners and advocates to bring sustainable restorative practices and philosophies to the south suburbs of Chicago. "
Mary Fazzini - Coordinator, Homewood-Flossmoor Peer Jury

What is the Stone Soup Project?


The Stone Soup Project is a community-led effort to expand restorative justice practices in the south suburbs of Cook County, Illinois (6th Municipal District) in order to reduce delinquency, increase positive youth development, promote healing for those harmed by crime and make communities safer. Stone Soup is rooted in our belief that the most effective way to achieve these goals, and to create the community we most desire, is to turn to one another. Through the Project, local citizens and stakeholders have formed an intentional Community of Practice, a collaborative learning and action network, that builds on local strengths and resources to create innovative and sustainable solutions through restorative justice. Our Community of Practice members—consisting of local stakeholders from the juvenile justice system, schools, communities, faith-based organizations, local colleges and universities, and others—work together to identify and address the challenges that our youth and communities face without relying entirely on outside support and expertise. All of our efforts are based on the idea that anything is possible when we work together, build on our collective strengths, and contribute our resources and local wisdom for the common good. Through this approach, Stone Soup members are reducing the damaging effects of incarceration on youth, their families, and their neighborhoods, while promoting community-driven, cost-effective policies to prevent and reduce delinquency and violence in the south suburbs.

Goals

Collectively, we aim to:

  • Increase awareness of the power of restorative justice to address trauma, heal relationships, and build communities
  • Support the expansion of restorative justice as a routine way of responding to youth offenses in courts and schools
  • Create prevention and intervention programs that hold youth accountable for repairing the harm they have caused while building competencies and skills within them for success thereby making communities safer and stronger

Core Functions

The Stone Soup Project is designed to serve three Core Functions:

  • Convene conversations that engage individuals, organizations, and communities in exploring the many ways restorative justice can hold youth accountable for the harm they cause while improving their chances of success in life, as well as contributing to community safety and well-being.
  • Support connections, collaborations and relationships among stakeholders to develop lasting, productive partnerships for sustainability of the project.
  • Develop the capacity of stakeholders to co-create their own change by providing trainings and technical assistance in the Art of Participatory Leadership and restorative practices.

Why “Stone Soup”?

We named our initiative the Stone Soup Project because our work in the south suburbs reminds us of the parable of Stone Soup and its moral that, when we work together in a time of scarce resources, we can still create something plentiful and nourishing for all. Read the parable below:

The Story of Stone Soup: Some hungry travelers came to a village, asking for food. But the villagers would not share their food with the travelers, for times were difficult. So the travelers went to the center of the village, created a fire, and started boiling water in a large pot. One of the villagers became curious and asked what they were doing. The travelers answered, “We are making stone soup, which always tastes wonderful... but stone soup with cabbage—that’s hard to beat!” The villager was willing to share just a bit of cabbage to help them out, so it was added to the soup. Other villagers became curious, and the travelers again mentioned that their stone soup had not yet reached its full potential: “Perhaps a potato…” More and more villagers joined in, and so it went, adding potatoes, onions, carrots, mushrooms, and even a bit of beef, until a delicious and nourishing pot of soup was enjoyed by all through the magic of Stone Soup!

How We Got Started

The Markham Courthouse in the south suburbs is the most overburdened juvenile court in the Cook County Juvenile Court system1. There is also no place in the Chicagoland area that is more affected by disproportionate minority contact than the south suburbs2. In the late 1990s, the south suburbs experienced a highly successful restorative justice (RJ) initiative that started in Bloom Township and spread to other areas within the 6th Municipal District Court of Cook County. Using RJ principles and practices, the program brought together youth who had caused harm with the community members whom they had harmed. The program demonstrated high success rates, had numerous local volunteers, and kept many young people out of the juvenile court system while still holding them accountable for their poor choices. However, the program was grant-funded, and when the funding stopped, so did the program.

In July of 2011, the United Methodist Church of Evergreen Park Foundation (UMCMG, Inc.) awarded a grant to the Illinois Balanced and Restorative Justice Project (IBARJP) to revitalize the expansion of restorative practices in the south suburbs in a more sustainable and collaborative way. IBARJP began to collaborate with leaders of the South Suburban Restorative Justice Coalition (SSRJC) to support south suburban community members to lead the way in creating positive change for their youth and neighborhoods. Through the philosophy and practice of the Art of Hosting, Stone Soup has been engaging south suburban citizens as key participants in the process of finding restorative solutions to their most pressing challenges.

Primary Project Conveners

Illinois Balanced and Restorative Justice Project (IBARJP)

The Illinois Balanced and Restorative Justice Project (IBARJP) is a 501(c)(3) organization that seeks to create and sustain the availability of Balanced and Restorative justice (BARJ) practices and programs for citizens of Illinois through leadership, education, and promotion. IBARJP is a statewide network of professionals, volunteers, and organizations that includes leaders in juvenile justice, schools, social services, corporations, small business owners, community members, and faith-based organizations. www.ibarj.org

South Suburban Restorative Justice Coalition (SSRJC)

The South Suburban Restorative Justice Coalition is a network of restorative practitioners and advocates throughout the south suburbs of Cook County who are concerned about community health and public safety to interact and help communities bring restorative justice responses to all parties affected by violations of rules or the law. The Coalition aims to invite participation in restorative justice practices, and to create partnership agreements for collaboration. The South Suburban Restorative Justice Coalition exists for the benefit and betterment of the members’ communities. The SSRJC meets regularly to strengthen this network and to advance the cause of restorative justice in south suburban communities.

1 Chicago Public Radio, May 20, 2009; Chicago Tribune, January 15, 2009
2 Urban League, 2010