Currents of Restorative Justice conference on Nov. 15 provides opportunity to learn about alternative model of justice

October 31, 2013

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Janine Geske

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — A “Currents of Restorative Justice” conference will be held on Friday, Nov. 15 at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Nohr Gallery, Ullsvik Hall, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The conference is hosted by the Ridge and Valley Restorative Justice Program, an organization that works with victims, offenders and communities to provide support and facilitate services that promote healing and reconciliation.

Restorative justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior. It is accomplished through cooperative processes that include the victim, the offender and the community. Through restorative justice programs, the voices of victims can be heard and offenders are held accountable for their actions.

The conference is open to anyone who is interested in finding out more about this justice model, including students, teachers, criminal justice professionals, police officers, human services professionals, judges, legislators and community members.

“Restorative justice is a philosophy that asserts that three parties are involved when a crime occurs: victims, offenders and the greater community,” said Robin Cline, director of Ridge and Valley Restorative Justice. “In practice, it works with each party in an effort to bring healing and to – where possible – restore things nearer to how they were before the crime occurred. A common way to bring about communication between these parties is through conferencing. This includes an honest and frank dialogue between the offender and the victim, which allows healing to begin. The restorative justice philosophy holds the offender accountable for his or her actions, provides opportunities for victims and their families to share how the offense has affected their lives and identifies what the victims and families need in order to bring some sense of closure.”

“We are hopeful that this conference will encourage greater utilization of restorative justice principles in schools, human service organizations, police departments, court systems and more,” said Cline. “We are also hopeful that this conference will assist in building a solid network of community collaborators who can help bring this issue to the forefront of the Wisconsin justice system.”

Key values of restorative justice include opportunities for victims, offenders and community members to meet to talk about the crime and its effects; for victims to be empowered to participate in the justice process, to ask that their needs be addressed and to have a forum to share their stories; for offenders to make amends for the harm they have caused; for offenders to be reintegrated and included into the community so they can be contributing members; and for everyone affected by the crime to participate in its resolution.

“Restorative justice is a really interesting approach to holding the offender responsible for the crime,” said Keith Lucas, who is interning as the assistant director of Ridge and Valley Restorative Justice and is a senior criminal justice major at UW-Platteville from Lake Mills, Wis. “Studies have shown that this philosophy has been successful at reducing the rate that offenders re-offend because it brings crime victims and their families, offenders and community members together to work toward a resolution.”

The conference will include a presentation by crime victim/survivor and Wisconsin Restorative Justice Coalition Secretary Tanya Nelson; a panel discussion with professionals who use restorative justice in the criminal justice field; discussion groups for school, law enforcement, community and courts; victim and offender speakers and more.

Nelson graduated from UW-Platteville in 1994 with a bachelor of science in broadcast technology management. Although she has worked in the industry since graduating, her passion lies in restorative justice. After being personally impacted by violent crime in 1999, she has spent more than 12 years working in and volunteering for many restorative justice programs.

The conference will also include a keynote address by Janine Geske, a distinguished professor of law at the Marquette University Law School and the founder and director of its Restorative Justice Initiative. In her current role, Geske teaches restorative justice, supervises the Marquette Restorative Justice Clinic and works extensively with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, victims groups, prosecutors, police officers, social service agencies, neighborhood associations and other restorative justice programs to design restorative processes that meet their respective needs.

Previously, Geske served as visiting professor at the Catholic University of Leuven’s Restorative Justice Institute of Criminology, Leuven, Belgium, in 2011; Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge for 12 years and a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice for five years. She also has served as the interim Milwaukee County executive and as interim dean of the Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee, Wis.

Ridge and Valley Restorative Justice serves Crawford and Grant counties and surrounding communities and offers victim-offender mediation, family group conferencing, victim impact programs, community mediation, jail/prison programming and “Growing Community,” a hands-on program where inmates connect with community volunteers to do community gardening.

Cost of the conference is $15 for students and $55 for general admission. To register online, go to http://alumni.uwplatt.edu/events/event_details.asp?id=365152&group=. For more information about the conference or restorative justice or to help sponsor the event, contact Cline at (608) 326-2407 or ridge.valleyrestorativejustice@gmail.com.
 

Contact: Robin Cline, director, Ridge and Valley Restorative Justice, (608) 326-2407, ridge.valleyrestorativejustice@gmail.com or Keith Lucas, assistant director, Ridge and Valley Restorative Justice, (608) 326-2407, lucask@uwplatt.edu

Written by: Laurie Hamer, College of Liberal Arts and Education, (608) 342-6191, hamerl@uwplatt.edu

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