Patty LaTaille and Molly Leach of Full Circle Restorative Justice said they experienced true cross-cultural representation at a conference for the National Association for Communities and Restorative Justice June 16-18 in Oakland, Calif.
Americans of African and Native American descent were fully and equally represented, LaTaille said.
Full Circle’s presentation at the event highlighted the benefits of using therapy dogs in the restorative justice process.
Ruth and Greg Phillips, Salida, whose therapy dog, Abby, works with the Full Circle Restorative Justice program in Salida, drove to California with Abby to attend the conference.
“Abby was the only dog attending,” said LaTaille. “She wore her vest, and her job was to greet people and get petted. She was the star of the conference – a real celebrity.”
About 1,200 people attended the biannual conference, the sixth of its kind. The Full Circle presenters were given a “prime time” slot because of the pioneering nature of their program in the ways of interspecies collaboration, said LaTaille. Approximately 60 people attended their presentation.
Full Circle’s pioneering approaches were well received with the main question being, “How did you come up with this idea (to use therapy dogs in restorative justice),” said LaTaille. Other questions included inquiries about the “Paws for Peace” T-shirts the group was wearing.
“When people asked where we came up with the idea, I told them it arose from my thesis paper, which focused on interspecies relations. It was written when I was graduating with my journalism and mass communications degree,” she said.
“Because we had nearly 30 or 40 people asking us if we were selling the shirts, we’ve decided to offer them online at fullcirclerj.net,” said LaTaille. “We will be taking pre-orders as soon as we get the image and purchase order form online in a day or so.”
LaTaille said because there were so many cultures represented, she experienced being in a minority group. “We got to see restorative justice through a racial equity lens. All the presentations were informative, yet I really enjoyed a main conference speaker’s presentation about restorative justice and its indigenous roots,” she said.
“Overall, the conference went very well, and people were enthused about Full Circle’s presentation. Most people there had canine companions and many of the restorative justice groups mentioned that they would begin searching for registered therapy dogs to join their restorative justice programs,” said LaTaille.