Conference to explore restorative justice
PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — On Monday, March 9, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville department of criminal justice will sponsor a conference to explore the healing power of restorative justice through guest speakers and discussion circles. The conference, Currents of Restorative Justice, will run from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Velzy Commons in Ullsvik Hall. Interested participants can pre-register via the link on the criminal justice department webpage.
Restorative justice focuses on repairing harm. A common approach is facilitating the healing dialogue between victim and offender. It focuses on victims talking about what he or she needs in order to heal, the offender taking responsibility for his or her actions, and the system and community taking an active role in the process.
“This is the second year we have hosted this conference, and while we will have a similar structure to the first, we will have different speakers who can help participants explore different restorative justice issues,” said Robin Cline, lecturer and adviser to the criminal justice department. “We will have fresh voices and perspectives. This will be a rich day with many opportunities for people to ask questions of one another and to ask professionals questions that explore the areas in which they are most interested.”
The conference will feature keynote speaker Dr. Mark Umbreit, restorative justice expert and published author. Other speakers will include Jonathan Scharrer, director of the Restorative Justice Project at UW-Madison Law School; Amy Brown, member of the Dane County Victim Witness Program; Chief Mark Dalsing of the Dubuque Police Department; Lila Marmel of Ridge and Valley Restorative Justice; Trina Skoerning-Skime of the Prairie du Chien Correction Institution; and Linda Ketcham, executive director of Madison Urban Ministry.
Participants will also receive the opportunity to attend a number of discussion circles to get a more in depth feel for a specific program of interest, such as bullying initiatives in Dubuque, a gardening restorative justice project at Prairie du Chien, and other topics related to the speakers’ areas of expertise. The conference will conclude with a survivor and an ex-offender who will talk about how they were impacted by crime, the justice system and restorative practices.
“Restorative justice can be explained partially by the ripple effect,” said Dr. Amy Nemmetz, assistant professor of criminal justice. “It allows you to see how many people are affected by a crime, and focuses on an ongoing circle of communication. You can’t necessarily do anything about the past, but you can do something about the future, and that’s what restorative justice tries to do.”
Restorative justice empowers victims to talk with their offenders and get some unanswered questions addressed, according to Nemmetz. However, the currents of restorative justice can take many forms, including a variety of techniques to rehabilitate both victim and offender such as writing letters, speaking to other victims or offenders, or talking with members of the community to share their experiences.
“Restorative justice is having conversations between offenders and victims outside of the court system,” said Cline. “Through that, you can get a depth of impact that can’t be put into a police report.”
The conference will go hand in hand with an upcoming training session hosted by Ridge and Valley Restorative Justice in April. This training will enable students or faculty members to become facilitators for victim-offender dialogue in Grant County.
Written by: Angela O’Brien, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, 608-342-1194, firstname.lastname@example.org