With a passion for building relationships and repairing harm, Elle Raile has devoted her career to restorative justice work to help kids see the consequences of their behavior and find a path forward toward healing.
Name: Elle Raile
Title: Juvenile Justice Team Lead
Program Center: Fargo Program Center
How long have you worked at LSSND?
I have been with LSS in this role since December of 2018. However, I worked for LSS at Luther Hall too right out of college back in 2006.
Tell us about your role as the Juvenile Justice Team Lead.
I oversee two major programs: Restorative Justice and Youth Court.
Within Restorative Justice there are two separate programs: Accountability Conferencing and Victim Empathy Seminars. Both of those programs take referrals from the juvenile court system statewide. The point of Accountability Conferencing is to bring people together to have a meeting and discuss what happened. The youth then will agree to repair the harm in whatever way makes sense for them. Victim Empathy Seminars are more of a classroom-type setting where kids learn about how their behaviors impact other people, and they write an apology letter.
I also oversee Youth Court which is a diversion program here in Fargo. In this program, youth who have gotten in trouble with law enforcement are seen by a group of youth volunteers who pose as a mock court for them to talk about what happened. Then, they are given an assignment to help them learn from it.
What is your favorite part about what you do?
I love to see the lightbulb go on for youth. Oftentimes, they don’t understand how their behaviors impact other people, and it’s great to see them build and grow what I call their “empathy muscle” — where they start to understand that the world is bigger than just them. They see that even when they do something wrong, they have an opportunity to make it right again. I love that.
It’s also really great to know that victims have an opportunity to really be heard. They have a voice in what real justice will look like to them.
I call these the “warm fuzzy” moments. There is a broken relationship going into these meetings, and by the end, there is a little healing that takes place.
Tell me about a favorite LSSND moment or memory?
As I said, I used to work at Luther Hall right out of college. That place touches the staff who work there in a really deep and meaningful way. I think that was really showcased back in March when an alumni staff member found out that because of COVID, all of the fun off-site activities had to be canceled.
The alumni staff decided to set up a Facebook group of former employees and see what they could do to help find fun things for the kids to do. A huge network of former Luther Hall staff was formed, and we got a fundraiser going to raise some funds to have some fun on-site activities for the kids to replace the off-site ones that were lost. It was astounding how much we raised. It was just a really cool moment to see how meaningful that work was to have so many former staff care about kids they had never met and want to be a part of making something good for them.
When the kids found out what had happened, they were astounded that complete strangers cared enough about them to do something like this. That was a really cool moment. The LSS in all of us continues to be there.
(You can read more about this fundraiser on the LSSND blog)
What is the hardest part of your job?
Restorative justice as a field and as a philosophy is all about relationships and connections with other people. When you are able to bring people face-to-face in a space together, that’s where the magic happens.
With COVID impacting everybody’s service delivery, I feel that it has especially impacted restorative justice because it’s challenging to navigate bringing people into a virtual space to have this conversation and have it feel the same and have the same impact. We’ve been able to do it, but it definitely has been an incredible challenge to overcome.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard?
The best advice I’ve ever received is from my dad. He drove me to school every day, and each morning he would say, “Be a leader, not a follower.” I pass that advice along to my own kids now. Anytime I am faced with a decision, I decide if I am being a leader in the situation or a follower.
What’s the weirdest or most interesting job you’ve ever had?
I think probably my high school job. I worked at a dry cleaner!
What’s your favorite quote/motto/personal mantra?
Lately, my personal mantra has been “These mountains you’ve been carrying you were only meant to climb.”
I think that’s a good reminder in our work at LSS especially because we come into social services work because we want to help people. Oftentimes, the selflessness we bring to our job can feel like we are trying to carry the mountain. I need to remind myself that I don’t need to carry the mountain. I just need to climb it, and I can bring others along on the climb with me. Sometimes, I’m further up the mountain than some people, and other times I’m further behind than other people. I just have to remember that I am not here to carry the mountain by myself.
Tell us a fun fact!
I am a musician! I was classically trained in piano for 16 years. In the past couple of years, my best friend and I have started performing together in various bars, golf courses and other venues. We have a lot of fun together.
You can learn more about LSSND's Youth Interventions programs and restorative justice at lssnd.org/youth-interventions.
To get in touch with a restorative justice facilitator or inquire about restorative justice trainings, visit lssnd.org/help or call 701-223-1510