Restorative Justice Reflections

Nearly 25 years ago, during the appointment confirming my pregnancy, the astute midwife gently took my hand and said: Now you must start letting go.

And so began my learning (and unlearning) the most powerful life lesson guiding both my parenting and restorative philosophy: Children and restorative practices have their own paths. For both, you must prepare as best as you can. You create conditions and offer guidelines. You give your wholehearted wisdom and your whole heart… and then you let go.

As the Moran Center celebrates “Restorative Justice Month” this year, I’m celebrating – and reflecting on –  five years guiding the Roger Pascal Restorative Justice Initiative. In the hundreds of restorative practices I’ve witnessed – circles for repair, celebration, re-entry/welcoming, community building, etc. – participants have found connection and comfort in unexpected ways and move toward growth and understanding.

This is not to say every practice has been easy. Truth, repair, and real talk are often messy and complex. But when we maintain fidelity to our shared values and guidelines that offer confidentiality, uninterrupted speaking, and radical, deep listening and speaking authentically, people inevitably find the human connections they’ve sought.

I’ve experienced countless humbling, profound, and, of course, surprising moments in circle:

  • People who thought they needed to speak, experiencing deep listening;
  • People who never felt heard, watching as we all listened;
  • People shunned from the community finding a way back in;
  • Children who caused each other profound harm recognizing themselves in each other;
  • Children stunned as their caregivers shared the harms they caused as children, reminding us about second chances and that nobody should be reduced to the worst mistake they’ve ever made;

  • Young adults who caused harm held accountable and still able to move forward, unbound by punitive systemic obstacles that make second chances impossible for so many;
  • Educators centering students’ wisdom by asking them how they learn best and what gets in their way;
  • Elders and emerging adults in intergenerational circles speaking honestly about what divides them, what connects them, and what they can learn from- and with – each other;
  • Colleagues working on the front lines creating a shared space for comfort and healing, reminding each other they’re not alone; and
  • Community members who speak different languages, sharing laughter and surprise in feeling so connected and finding so much in common. 


At the Moran Center, I’ve experienced the transformative power of restorative philosophy and practice, strengthening both relationships and community.  And I eagerly want our entire community to experience restorative practices too! So I encourage you to engage with the Moran Center – look for upcoming restorative training opportunities and conversations in the community – and help us build an authentically “Restorative Community.” 

Circle up with us. Pull up a chair, open your heart, and start letting go. ◼️

About Pam 

Pam Cytrynbaum is a longtime restorative circle keeper in Evanston, a veteran investigative journalist, and an educator. As Moran Center’s Restorative Justice Manager, Pam offers community-building circle keeping; provides training, support, and coaching to organizations and community members interested in embedding restorative philosophy and practices within their work and lives; and directs advocacy efforts to promote the adoption of restorative justice practices within public institutions, including schools districts and the criminal legal system.

Pam is thrilled to work with her partner-in-peace, Emeric Mazibuko, Moran Center’s Restorative Justice Coordinator. (link to Emeric’s bio) Together, they guide Moran Center’s Community Peace Builders, a team of community Elders, and emerging adults (link to Peace Builders page) working to embed restorative practices throughout Evanston.

Pam and Moran Center’s Restorative Justice Team work with community-based organizations, schools, court officials, as well as parents and youth to introduce and support restorative practices. She offers informational sessions and circle trainings for schools, parents, and community members on the philosophy and practice of restorative justice, as well as models of implementation.

The Moran Center’s Restorative Justice Team is collaborating with Evanston Township High School District 202 and Northwestern University in several restorative efforts. Pam has led circles and trainings throughout Evanston/Skokie School District 65 schools and co-facilitated victim-offender conferences, community circles, and trainings with the Evanston Police Department. 

As an investigative journalist, Pam served as Senior Editor for Injustice Watch, executive director of the Chicago Innocence Center, associate director of the Justice Brandeis Law Project at Brandeis University, and as a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Chicago Sun-Times. She taught at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and is a proud “Kit-Cat,” having graduated from Evanston Township High School (Wildkits) and Northwestern University (Wildcats). She is most proud of receiving the ETHS Distinguished Alumni Award in 2018 and of being a Mom to an ETHS graduate.