Transforming Trauma Episode 107: Restorative Justice and the Journey Towards Redemption with Dr. Elaine Leeder
A podcast brought to you by the NARM® Training Institute
Forgiveness can transform lives. In this episode of Transforming Trauma, Emily explores the holistic practice of restorative justice with Dr. Elaine Leeder, a professor and prolific writer who's worked in mental hospitals, gerontology, foster care, domestic violence, and drug and alcohol counseling as a social worker and psychotherapist. As Emily discovers, Elaine's current pro bono work with incarcerated individuals and those they've harmed is remarkable for its progressive approach to redemption.
In her 28 years working with prisoners, Elaine has witnessed the devastating effects of early childhood trauma compounded by the consequences of institutionalized mistreatment. She has also experienced the power of collective healing. While the journey forward is often painful, Elaine believes this path offers an intentional alternative to traditional incarceration.
“People are not the worst things they've done,” Elaine insists. Her empathetic statement complements the NARM principle that humans can repair persistent, outdated adaptive survival strategies through connection, attunement, trust, and autonomy. These core capacities are difficult to access in prison, however. In her opinion, what generally happens inside prisons is retribution, not rehabilitation. “There's no healing if you're locked into a cell the size of a cage.”
Elaine calls upon various spiritual themes to facilitate healing between participants, a technique that’s familiar to NARM practitioners as well. Teshuva, the Jewish tradition of repentance, invites a return to the pure self, while ahimsa, invokes the ancient Indian principle of nonviolence. “It's a very spiritual experience that I engage in with these people. I see it as a form of healing the world, of mending the harm that has been done to both victim and offender,” she says, adding, “I feel enormously privileged to be present to watch the transformation that takes place with these folks.”
We feel enormously privileged to share Elaine's work with Transforming Trauma listeners. Her ability to hold compassion for both incarcerated people and the victims of their crime is inspiring, and we're grateful to her for facilitating opportunities in which collaborative healing can take root. We invite you to learn more about Elaine's commitment to trauma care and restorative justice by engaging with the full episode.