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VLS Announces the National Center On Restorative Justice
Vermont Law School (VLS) is proud to announce the receipt of a $3-million federal grant to create and host the National Center on Restorative Justice in South Royalton, Vt. In partnership with the University of Vermont (UVM), the University of San Diego (USD), and the U.S. Office of Justice Programs (OJP), VLS is excited to launch expanded educational opportunities and research initiatives that will shape and move forward the restorative dialogue and movement that is being seen and applied in many facets of US society from our criminal justice system to education and beyond. United States Senator Patrick Leahy, long a champion of justice reform, was instrumental in helping to secure the funding.
What is the National Center on Restorative Justice?
The National Center on Restorative Justice will serve as the premier education, training, and research location for the advancement of restorative justice (RJ) principles and practices, focusing on less punitive responses to harm, substantial input by victims, accountability, opportunities for people who cause harm to make amends, stronger and more resilient individuals and communities, and broader academic options for those under court supervision or sentence.
Three partnering academic institutions bring considerable strengths to the Center. VLS is the only law school in the nation to offer a master’s degree in RJ as a stand-alone degree or in conjunction with a law degree. UVM brings research expertise and an established program of educating incarcerated individuals. USD provides geographical diversity and extensive experience in delivering national RJ trainings and curriculum design.
Leveraging the strengths of these three diverse, accredited institutions, the Center will provide justice systems education and training through semester-long and two-week summer courses delivered residentially and online. The Center will host two RJ Institutes annually deepening the RJ knowledge base for justice professionals. The Center will expand educational opportunities for those under sentence and in a court-supervised substance abuse program. Through research and evaluations, the Center will disseminate reports on the impact on attitudes, recidivism, and costs of the educational initiatives.
NCRJ will strengthen criminal justice policy and practice by:
Expanding and deepening RJ and justice systems educational curriculum;
Educating undergraduate, graduate, law students, and professionals in the history, philosophy, and practices of juvenile, criminal, and restorative justice;
Training criminal and juvenile justice professionals to infuse RJ into their work;
Increasing educational opportunities for incarcerated people;
Providing education and training for people participating in a judicially supervised drug or other treatment court; and,
Researching, evaluating, and reporting on the impact on attitudes, recidivism, and costs of expanded RJ education for students, professionals, and justice involved individuals.
Why Restorative Justice?
For too long our response to harm and conflict has been to punish, isolate, and stigmatize. As is clear by the staggering use of incarceration and the rates of recidivism, removing and isolating people from their communities is not the answer. Restorative justice allows individuals and communities to be more actively engaged in responding to harm. Restorative justice creates opportunities for people who have experienced harm to have a voice in shaping a response, and for people who caused harm, to make amends and be accountable for their actions. Restorative responses to harm honor the individuals and communities affected and allow for tailored and empowering responses appropriate to those most affected.
"When you are invested in the people you live and work with, you treat them differently and value their opinions and wisdom. If we want to make changes in society, and fix mechanisms that we know are broken - especially in our delivery of “justice” - we need to value all people and offer those who have been harmed or marginalized by our current systems true support and opportunity. Through this grant, the National Center on Restorative Justice will support direct initiatives to provide exactly that: true support and opportunity. It will offer education to those who are incarcerated or in a treatment court program; it will study direct services and links to social inequities and discrimination; and it will expand our current restorative justice curriculum and learning by inviting the voices and wisdom of practitioners from around the world to visit, teach, and help foster the growth of our next generation of true justice leaders. It is meant to create positive change for everyone’s tomorrow. "
Director, Center for Justice Reform
Vermont Law School
"Lawyers and law students learn about rules and laws, leverage and advantage. Restorative justice looks at relationships, obligations, and amends. Hosting the National Center on Restorative Justice at Vermont Law School creates a remarkable opportunity to help reshape thinking about effective and just ways to respond to harm. Together with our institutional partners at the University of Vermont and University of San Diego and with the US Department of Justice, the National Center will educate and train justice leaders and move national criminal justice policy and practice in a more just and restorative direction. "
Professor, Founding Director, Center for Justice Reform
Vermont Law School