Hawai‘i's Multicultural Contexts and Victim Participants' Information Shuttled for Restorative Reentry Planning Circles

Hawai‘i's Multicultural Contexts and Victim Participants' Information Shuttled for Restorative Reentry Planning Circles

Lorenn Walker, Leela Bilmes Goldstein
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1112-1.ch008
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Hawai‘i is a multicultural island state that has been experimenting with a facilitated restorative reentry planning circle process for incarcerated individuals who meet with loved ones. The circle process considers loved ones' needs for repairing harm and the incarcerated person's needs for successful reentry including reconciliation with loved ones. When loved ones cannot attend a circle, they are invited to provide information over the telephone or by email to the facilitator who shares the information during the circle. This study analyzed participants' perceptions of how helpful it was for them to provide information about their needs having an incarcerated loved one. The authors predicted participants from high-context cultures would find the process less satisfying than those from low-context cultures, but the study found no differences. Despite identifying from a high- or low-context culture, all participants except one from a low-context culture found that providing shuttled information was helpful.
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Hello, is this Malia Palama?

Yes, it is.

Hi Ms. Palama. My name’s Dawn. I work with Hawai‘i Friends of Restorative Justice. Your daughter Katherine gave me your telephone number. We provide a reentry planning circle process for incarcerated individuals that she’s applied for. Do you have time to talk right now or can I call you back?

Sure, I can talk now.

Thank you Ms. Palama. May I call you Malia?


Thanks Malia. The reentry circle Katherine wants is only for people who take responsibility for their past behavior and who want to make amends with loved ones for their past behavior and incarceration. We met with Katherine and she hoped you would want to come to the prison and meet with her and other family members for a circle. Does this sound like something you might be interested in?

Yes, Katherine told me about it and I’d love to come, but cannot. I live in Vegas and have to work,

Oh sure, that’s fine. If you’d like I can ask you the same questions we’d ask at the circle. I can write down your answers and we can read them when Katherine has her circle. Do you wanna do that?

Yeah, I could do that.

Okay, great. Do you have time right now? It’ll take about 15 minutes or so.

Yes, I have some time.

Okay. The circle is a positive process that includes finding out what Katherine’s loved ones like about her. Can you tell me what you think her strengths are? What you believe is positive and what you like about Katherine?

Well, she’s really smart and funny. She cares about other people a lot. She’d give the shirt off her back to help someone. That’s part of her problem always helping people and some of them don’t help her, but drag her down instead.

Okay thanks. What other good things do you think Katherine has going for


She works hard. If she puts her mind to something she won’t give up.

Wow great, so important to be a hard worker. What other strengths does Katherine have?

She’s a good teacher. She’s also a leader and always has friends.

She really has some great strengths Malia. If you think of more while we are talking I’ll add those to your list. I will read everything back to you before we hang up and make sure your comments are exactly what you want shared at the circle.

Malia goes on to describe to Dawn the facilitator over the telephone how Katherine’s past behavior and imprisonment affected her and what Katherine could do to help repair the harm it caused. At the end of the telephone conversation, Dawn asks Malia one final question for qualitative research on the benefits of the reentry circle process:

Malia if this conversation that you and I just had right now was helpful to you, how was it helpful?

Well it makes me feel good. I am crying right now, breaks my heart, I miss my baby. Helped me by making me stronger knowing somebody is out there to help her, that there is someone who cares and who she can talk to. Makes me feel better knowing somebody cares.

This paper describes the reentry circle, the needs its serves (Walker, Sakai & Brady, 2006), and reports on a study analyzing cultural differences in communication styles between 35 randomly selected people out of 87. All 87 were unable to attend their loved one’s reentry circle but contributed information for it that was read during a circle. How the 35 people perceived the value of their contributing information that was shuttled to the circles, which they did not personally attend is reviewed. Appendix A includes the 35 subjects’ verbatim comments.



The restorative reentry planning circle was originally developed and piloted in Hawai‘i in 2005 (Walker & Greening, 2013). It was designed for incarcerated individuals and their families based on John Braithwaite’s 2004 suggestion for a similar youth transition planning process. Hawai‘i’s restorative reentry circles provide transition planning and healing opportunities for incarcerated adults and their loved ones.1 Restorative justice is a cooperative alternative to the traditional autocratic and adversarial justice system (Walker, Rodgers & Umbreit, 2018).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Reentry Planning Circles: A group process developed in Hawai‘i for individuals transitioning from or to an institution (e.g., prison, probation, etc.) that focuses on making amends with loved one, the community, and meeting their needs to achieve their unique goals.

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy: A goal oriented and strength-based approach for assisting people that assumes each individual is the best expert of their own life.

High-Context Culture: Members generally communicate with implicit understandings, relies heavily on context of language, groups need take precedence over an invidiual’s needs, and interpersonal relationships are highly valued.

Restorative Justice: Cooperative philosophy and practices that include stakeholders affected by wrongdoing and social injustice to meet their needs for healing harm.

Low-Context Culture: Members communicate explicitly and openly without relying on context and implicit understandings.

Communication Styles: Differences in communication styles that are influenced by cultures.

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