Restorative Justice Conference: repairing harm, promoting healing

Written by Laurie Hamer on Tue, 01/21/2020 - 15:05 |
Keith Blackburn/Misty Wallace
Speakers Keith Blackburn and Misty Wallace (Photo courtesy of Matthew Detrich)
Dr. Buck Blodgett
Dr. Buck Blodgett

On March 2, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Department of Criminal Justice will host its biannual Restorative Justice Conference in the university’s Velzy Commons, Ullsvik Hall, from 8 a.m.-4:15 p.m. Approximately 150-200 people are expected to attend. All are welcome.

Attendees will learn about the theory of restorative justice and the potential it has to bring together victims, offenders, families and community members to repair the harm caused by criminal behavior and promote healing. They will also have an opportunity to hear from survivors, ex-offenders and a panel of restorative-based practitioners.

The conference will open with a keynote by Keith Blackburn, a chaplain and ex-offender, and Misty Wallace, a restorative justice practitioner, in a story of survival and forgiveness titled, “Face to Face: A Story of Crime, Repentance, and Forgiveness.” Following, there will be a facilitator-led panel on varying restorative practices and programming as well as presentations by Eric Pizer, a former armed forces member, ex-offender and future police officer, and Jesse Brogley, a counselor, on moving forward following a dark time in their lives. The program will conclude with a keynote by Dr. Buck Blodgett, the father of a homicide victim, on The LOVE > hate Project, which he founded.

The criminal justice system has traditionally focused on punitive practices, yet the research doesn’t support that harsher sentencing magically correlates to better future choices,” said Dr. Amy Nemmetz, associate professor of criminal justice at UW-Platteville. “Restorative practices focus on offenders taking accountability for harm caused and attempting to repair harm that has been caused to those who have been negatively impacted by a crime or victimization. I hope that attendees leave the conference with a deeper understanding of restorative practices and feel like they have a tool kit if they want to become involved in facilitating or engaging in restorative practices.”

Nemmetz said the conference will provide an affordable, welcoming opportunity for practitioners, students, teachers, professors, survivors and community members interested in restorative justice to hear from survivors, ex-offenders and a panel of restorative based practitioners.

“For those who know very little about restorative justice, this is the opportunity to learn more about what restorative practices entail, and for those who have a great deal of experience with restorative justice, this is an opportunity to network and hear from others,” said Nemmetz. “The conference allows a comfortable, safe place for conversations about the power of restorative practices.”

“Restorative justice is important because it allows victims and offenders to make amends with one another,” said Jarad Bartelt, a senior criminal justice major at UW-Platteville from Jefferson, Wisconsin, and a member of the conference panel.  “My mom always taught me to forgive people, and that people make mistakes, so restorative justice just puts that perspective into a bigger frame. I am looking forward to the conference because I enjoy listening to different guest speakers and hearing their stories. I also like meeting new people and building connections with them.”

After he graduates from UW-Platteville, Bartelt plans to become a police officer centered around community involvement, such as a school resource officer. He hopes to use the knowledge and skills he has gained about restorative justice in the position. “When I become a school resource officer, I would look into different ways to incorporate restorative justice with the students,” he said.


Conference Schedule

  • 8 a.m.-8:45 a.m.: Check-in, Velzy Commons, Ullsvik Hall
  • 8:45 a.m.-9 a.m.: Welcome
  • 9 a.m.-10 a.m.: Opening keynote: “Face to Face: A Story of Crime, Repentance, and Forgiveness” by Keith Blackburn, chaplain and ex-offender, and Misty Wallace, restorative justice practitioner and survivor
  • 10:15 a.m.-11 a.m.: Facilitator-led panel
  • 11 a.m.-Noon: Breakout, discussion circles
  • Noon-1 p.m.: Lunch, UW-Platteville Chamber Choir
  • 1 p.m.-1:45 p.m.: Restorative Justice Spotlight: “From Living Behind Correctional Walls to Counselor” by Jesse Brogley, AODA counselor
  • 2 p.m.-2:45 p.m.: Restorative Justice Spotlight: “From Offender Label to Pardoned Future Police Officer” by Eric Pizer, former armed forces member, ex-offender and future police officer
  • 2:50 p.m.-4 p.m.: Closing keynote: “The LOVE > hate Project” by Dr. Buck Blodgett, father of homicide victim
  • 4 p.m.: Farewell remarks

To register for the conference, email Amy Lancaster at for registration materials. Registration deadline is Feb. 14. Cost is $75 for community members and organizations and $20 for non-UW-Platteville students. UW-Platteville students, faculty and staff may attend free of charge.