by Clare Overlander, Restorative Justice Task Team
At a time when the Massachusetts Legislature is considering a widely discredited “three strikes and you’re incarcerated for life” bill, despite evidence from states which are repealing such laws; at a time when local vigilantism and police indiscretion are on the rise nationwide; when wars appear to be the “new diplomacy”; and when the rights of women are, yet again, being eroded and questioned: at such a time as this – you are offered a day to explore the new and healing paradigm of Restorative Justice.
“A Day of Restorative Justice” is co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Conference, UCC through its Restorative Justice Task Team, the Trinitarian Congregational Church, UCC in Concord, the Park Avenue Congregational, UCC in Arlington, and the Communities for Restorative Justice, Inc. in Concord. “A Day of Restorative Justice” will be held Saturday, June 2nd from 8:30-5 at the Trinitarian Congregational Church, UCC in Concord. Professor Howard Zehr, the “father of Restorative Justice,” will deliver the keynote address as well as begin the day with some basic descriptions about where and how “RJ”, as the practice is affectionately known, is practicable and where not. Dr. Zehr is the Co-Director of Eastern Mennonite University’s Graduate Center for Justice and Peacebuilding.
Restorative Justice is an ancient method of dispute resolution practiced by indigenous peoples in New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States. It seeks to answer the questions, “How should we as a society respond to wrongdoing? When a crime occurs or an injustice is done, what needs to happen? What does justice require?” (Zehr, H.,The Little Book of Restorative Justice, Good Books, Intercourse, PA; 2002)
In keeping with the “hands-on” nature of “RJ,” the day will include opportunities to witness and learn about the “Circle,” a central restorative justice process, in both a diverse community setting from Victor Jose Santana of ROCA in Chelsea, and in a church setting from Karen Nell Smith of the Brookfield Institute; retired Police Chief Len Wetherbee from Concord who introduced restorative justice into the Concord criminal justice system will share examples of that approach; and The Honorable Jay Blitzman, First Justice of Middlesex Juvenile Court will speak to the use of “RJ” in the juvenile courts.
These are only some of the workshops and opportunities available on June 2nd. If you believe you could offer a “healing touch” in your church, school, or community, come on along and share with others who believe that we are called “to love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with our God.” Click here to register for A Day of Restorative Justice.