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UTSA hosts national restorative justice conference

By James M. Benavides
Public Affairs Specialist

***Update (May 12, 2009) Download Media Guide (45.7 KB, PDF file)***

(Feb. 23, 2009)--UTSA will host a national conference on restorative justice May 13-15 at the Downtown Campus. The conference will include academics, lawmakers, religious leaders, law enforcement officials and others who will discuss the philosophy of restorative justice and incorporating this system into the mainstream. The joint venture involves universities, justice system agencies, restorative justice practitioners and the faith community.

Restorative justice is a philosophy that considers crime a violation of people, not just a violation of the law. The restorative justice process focuses on rebuilding the relationships between victim, offender and community.

"Our traditional justice system is based on retribution and the belief that punishment is a deterrent against crime," said Michael Gilbert, conference coordinator and UTSA professor of criminal justice. "The justice system typically ignores the needs of victims. Victims are relegated to being witnesses to the crime."

In practice, restorative justice is often a series of dialogues between victims and offenders. The process focuses on acknowledging the harm done to the victim and the actions required by the offender to right the wrong. The restorative justice process can take place at any point within the traditional justice process: as an intervention before a crime, as an alternative to prosecution, as rehabilitation during incarceration or as preparation for an offender to re-enter society.

There are numerous approaches to the restorative justice process and the 2009 conference will offer various tracks of discourse including an introduction to restorative justice, academic and research, faith and community collaboration, indigenous practices and justice system applications.

Panelists and workshop leaders will include several notable researchers and criminal justice professionals including former Chief Justice Robert Yazzie of the Navajo Nation Supreme Court; former Justice Janine P. Geske of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and other professionals from around the nation and the world.

Attendees from 10 different countries have already registered for the conference including international experts in restorative practices such as Kathleen Daly, professor of criminology at Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia, and Jennifer Llewellen of Dalhousie Law School of Canada.

The conference organizing committee is working through the UTSA Office of Extended Education to make continuing education units (CEUs) and continuing legal education (CLE) credits available for conference participants. Conference organizers also have engaged the San Antonio Police Department Academy to arrange for continuing law enforcement training and education credits through the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education (TCLEOSE).

Register for the conference at the Restorative Justice Now Web site. An all-conference pass is $230. One-day, single-event and exhibitors passes are available.

For more information, contact Michael Gilbert at (210) 458-2683.

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