As published by Reuters
How one woman forgave the man who murdered her sister. The importance of trust in a community’s police. How the local economy can benefit from a safe environment. These insights into community healing through collaboration are found in Restorative Justice in Practice: A Holistic Approach, a book edited by the directors of John Marshall Law School’s Restorative Justice Project(RJP).
With contributions from the Archbishop Desmond Tutu, judges, law professors and advocates, the collection of essays surveys the contexts in which restorative justice can be used in the practice of law and beyond. RJP Co-Directors Professor Michael Seng and Judge Sheila R. Murphy (ret.) served as editors of and are among multiple John Marshall contributors to the book published by Vandeplas Publishing.
The book is the brainchild of the law school’s Restorative Justice course, the only such law school class in Illinois with a clinical component.
The book is divided into five categories: what restorative justice is and how it can be applied in various circumstances; restorative justice in the courts; in law school; in the community; and finally, self-healing through restorative justice practices. Some of the reflections on the merits of restorative justice include:
- Archbishop Desmond Tutu – “This book … is a beginning. Everything starts with a beginning, as long as there is hope. Now I ask you to read this book, and then to begin looking at all children as your own children.”
- Kim D. Chanbonpin, John Marshall Professor – Chanbonpin worked on a case against former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge, accused of leading widespread abuse of criminal suspects and witnesses. She notes the role restorative justice can play among all members of the public in fighting police torture. Fellow faculty and John Marshall students acted as her co-counsel in the Burge case, wherein the City of Chicago for the first time awarded monetary reparations to Burge-era prisoners.
- Hon. Martha Mills – A former presiding judge of the Cook County Expedited Child Support Court, Mills is a staunch proponent of restorative justice principles. “At its core, (restorative justice) is a communication and decision- or consensus-making process in which the participants voluntarily agree to participate.”
- Michael Schlesinger, director of John Marshall’s Business Enterprise Law Clinic – Schlesinger notes the detrimental economic impact crime can have on neighborhoods and details the approach to collaborative assistance to underserved communities through legal services. “Building a restorative economy in low- and moderate-income communities, which have been negatively impacted by crime and disinvestment, is restorative justice for communities. The BELAW’s work has a positive impact in helping to build restorative economies, largely because it removes one barrier to success: the lack of access to business and transactional legal services.”
- Seng – “We can never help a student stay in school if we wait until the community around him is transformed into a safe and nurturing environment. However, by helping the student stay in school, we are transforming the community.”
The book builds upon John Marshall’s history in trying to help stem youth violence and gang involvement and increase mentor opportunities for Chicago’s children. The City of Chicago Department of Public Health recently awarded a $64,000 two-year grant to the RJP to expand its efforts in providing restorative justice practices to the students at the Cesar E. Chávez Multicultural Academic Center. For several years, the RJP has worked with the south side elementary school that provides an educational setting for nearly 1,000 students.