U.S. Department of Justice grant secured with the support of U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy
SOUTH ROYALTON, Vt. (Feb. 2, 2021) – U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) today announced that the National Center on Restorative Justice (NCRJ) based at Vermont Law School (VLS) will receive a second $3 million grant from the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“There was no doubt that when Vermont Law School and its partners like the University of Vermont were awarded the inaugural grant to establish the National Center on Restorative Justice, the Department of Justice found the right home for this initiative,” said Senator Leahy. “Prison reform cannot just mean changing how we house offenders. We need to rethink our approach to the entire justice system. The National Center on Restorative Justice is leading a national discussion on how we can effectively and proactively implement restorative justice initiatives that support our communities, as well as our incarcerated population. I’m pleased to see the Justice Department continue this partnership in Vermont.”
The National Center was launched in the spring of 2020 by VLS in conjunction with the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, and institutional partners, the University of Vermont and the University of San Diego. The National Center works to improve criminal justice policy and practice through enhanced restorative justice training and education for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as incarcerated people and those under court supervision, professional development, and rigorous research into the impact of broadened restorative justice education on justice systems.
“This grant is great news for Vermont Law School, its partner organizations and anyone who believes that we can do better than a criminal justice system that is rife with racial, economic, and geographic inequalities, destroys too many families and costs too much,” said Beth McCormack, interim president and dean at VLS. “We commend Senator Leahy for seeing the shortcomings of the current system and working hard to come up with solutions.”
The funding will be used to: expand access to restorative justice education; provide targeted training to public safety officials, other professionals, and communities; convene and coordinate a national conversation to identify best practice guidelines for use by justice systems and communities; and, conduct research to evaluate the efficacy of restorative justice education and the infusion of restorative justice practices in a replicable manner across the criminal justice continuum.
“The funding is going to allow the National Center to introduce restorative justice principles and practices to more students, more professionals, and more communities,” said Stephanie Clark, director of the NCRJ and an assistant professor at VLS. “This is going to make a difference in peoples’ lives across the country. We are deeply appreciative of Senator Leahy’s championing of the National Center and this work.”
Restorative justice, a non-punitive, relational response to harm that seeks accountability through expansive input from those who have been harmed, acceptance of responsibility, and amends, has ancient origins and broad applicability today. VLS is the first law school in the country to offer a Master of Arts in Restorative Justice in addition to the JD degree. VLS also offers a 9-credit Professional Certificate in Restorative Justice designed to introduce restorative theories and practices to professionals from various fields.
“We are so appreciative of Senator Leahy’s leadership and excited to see the continued growth of the National Center,” said Robert Sand, founding director of VLS’s Center for Justice Reform. “The events of the last few months demonstrate in stark detail how critical it is for people in this country to find more effective ways to engage with each other. The National Center will move education, training, and communication in a more positive direction.”
For more information about the NCRJ, visit vermontlaw.edu/ncrj.