New Center for Justice Reform at VLS Offers Training, Degrees in Restorative Justice

Vermont Law School officials today launched a new Center for Justice Reform to address deficiencies in the criminal justice system and other responses to harm and conflict. The center offers degree and training programs for law and master’s students as well as criminal justice professionals, educators, and other community members who seek to develop alternative, less punitive, responses to harm.

“We need new ways to think about and respond to crime and other conflict,” said center founder Professor Robert Sand JD’87, former state’s attorney and a leader in alternative criminal justice responses. “Harm affects individuals and relationships, not just the state or some higher authority, and those individuals need a meaningful voice in shaping the response. Moreover, people who cause harm have an obligation to make things right. Punishment alone does not create an adequate voice for those harmed or an adequate opportunity for those who create the harm.”

The Center for Justice Reform will serve as a focal point for training leaders who work within the criminal justice system, child protection services, educational institutions, and human resources. The center offers a Master of Arts in Restorative Justice (MARJ) degree, a joint JD/MARJ degree program, and a Professional Certification in Restorative Justice. Additionally, the center will help broaden the curricular offerings at VLS, host conferences and speakers, and, eventually, promote the use of Vermont’s expungement law whereby student practitioners will help citizens remove old convictions from their record.

“Vermont Law School has long led the field in pioneering law and policy programs, and our uniquely positioned Center for Justice Reform continues that leadership,” said VLS President and Dean Thomas McHenry. “Our restorative justice students will have an opportunity to study this field surrounded by legal and environmental experts committed to social and environmental justice. I champion the innovative work of Professor Sand, whose commitment to justice reform underscores the VLS mission to make our communities and the world more just through education, and look forward to seeing VLS develop the next generation of justice reformers.”

Program courses are available on campus and online, and include experiential learning opportunities to ensure students gain the practical skills necessary to become agents of change. The MARJ degree is offered as a flexible online/on-campus program in 30 credits. The JD/MARJ program offers students the opportunity to earn both degrees in three academic years, the period of time ordinarily required to earn the juris doctor alone. And the Professional Certification in Restorative Justice is offered as a 12-credit, hybrid online/on-campus summer program.

Among the new courses available are Restorative Justice Theory and Practice; Origins, Evolution, and Critical Issues in Restorative Justice; Adversity, Trauma, and Victimization; and Restorative Justice in Educational Institutions. National and international leaders in restorative justice will join VLS faculty in teaching courses and facilitating conferences and presentations that are open to the public.

For more information about the Center for Justice Reform, including course descriptions and degree and certificate requirements, visit vermontlaw.edu/justice-reform, email justicereform@vermontlaw.edu, or call 802-831-1228.

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Vermont Law School, a private, independent institution, is home to the nation’s largest and deepest environmental law program. VLS offers a juris doctor curriculum that emphasizes public service; four master’s degrees—Master of Environmental Law and Policy, Master of Energy Regulation and Law, Master of Food and Agriculture Law and Policy, and Master of Arts in Restorative Justice; and four post-JD degrees —LLM in American Legal Studies (for foreign-trained lawyers), LLM in Energy Law, LLM in Environmental Law, and LLM in Food and Agriculture Law. The school features innovative experiential programs and is home to the Environmental Law Center, South Royalton Legal Clinic, Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic, Energy Clinic, Food and Agriculture Clinic, Center for Applied Human Rights, and Center for Justice Reform. For more information, visit vermontlaw.edu, find us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.