By Seth Lennon Weiner, Co-Director, Loyola's Center for Restorative Justice
he U.S. Supreme Court's recent ruling in Brown v. Plata brings into sharp focus the current dilemma facing California's criminal justice system. With prison overcrowding currently at alarming levels, California must find a careful balance between protecting the Eighth Amendment guarantees to prisoners and the public safety of the state. Considering Philadelphia's less than positive experience with a court-ordered reduction in prison populations during the 1990s, many Californians have expressed their anxiety and doubt over the High Court's ruling. The ruling, however, highlights more fundamental questions about our current criminal system in America: Where should the focus of criminal law be and around whom should the justice system be centered?
Loyola's Center for Restorative Justice (CRJ) believes that the answer to these questions requires a transformation of our current criminal justice system. Unlike our current system where the offender is the focus of the criminal proceeding, restorative justice seeks to transfer the focal point to the victim. Currently, California replaces the victim and seeks retribution on behalf of the victim and community at large. A system based on restorative principles would shift the focus of criminal proceedings from sanctions to restitution in order to make the victim whole and the offender directly culpable for the harm caused.
Restorative justice is not only a way of holding offenders accountable but, more importantly, is an idea that seeks to change the behavior of offenders and mitigate the harm caused to victims. By recognizing and addressing the harm caused to the victim as well as the harm that caused the offender to commit the offense, restorative justice takes a comprehensive approach that promotes healing and justice between the victim, the offender, and the community.
Another Way: Restorative Justice for Youth
The CRJ is bringing together scholars, policy makers, jurists and activists for a daylong discussion of the role of restorative justice for youth offenders. "Another Way: Restorative Justice for Youth" will run from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday, June 4 on Loyola's downtown L.A. campus.
The CRJ has crafted a day that will foster dialogue on healing for victims, their families and offenders. Loyola Professor Sam Pillsbury will deliver the speech, "From Liability to Responsibility," at 9:15 a.m. At 10:15 a.m., "From the Top Down: Government Perspectives on Restorative Justice," will feature panelists Judge Michael Nash '74, presiding judge, Juvenile Court of the L.A. Superior Court; Dr. John Deasy, superintendent, L.A. Unified School District; and Lee Baca, sheriff, L.A. County. Clinical Professor Maureen Pacheco, assistant director of Loyola's Center for Juvenile Law & Policy, will moderate.
The afternoon will be anchored by a keynote address at 1 p.m. from Azim Khamisa, an activist for peace whose son was shot and killed during a gang initiation while delivering pizzas. Khamisa is the author of The Secrets of the Bulletproof Spirit: How to Bounce Back from Life's Hardest Hits. At 2 p.m., the "From the Bottom Up: Community Perspectives on Restorative Justice" panel will feature speakers Jacqueline Caster, founder, Everychild Foundation; Ruett Stephen Foster, senior pastor, Community Bible Church, Culver City; Kim McGill, co-founder, Youth Justice Coalition, Los Angeles; Javier Stauring, co-director, Office of Restorative Justice, Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Additionally, from 11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m., there will be breakout sessions on a range of topics: "Opportunities for Victim's Voices," "Reintegration, not Release," "Community Participation" and "Education is Power." The day will be capped at 3 p.m. with a reception at which the Francisco "Franky" Carrillo Award will be presented to Scott Budnick, president, Greenhat Films (producers of The Hangover movies), and writing instructor, InsideOUT Writers.
Learn more about the program and how to register.