What do we mean by community-based & restorative justice?
Community and restorative justice is a way in which we look at problem solving. According to the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP), restorative practice is defined by “the study of how to build social capital and achieve social discipline through participatory learning and decision making” (IIRP). Specifically, restorative justice is a new way to look at our criminal justice system by bringing justice to victims by resolving conflicts with the offender. The role of restorative practices in our criminal justice system is to work on mending problems instead of using punitive measures. Community justice uses restorative practices to mend relationships between the community and offenders. Its focus is to be healing within the community that is harmed instead of the state.
What are we doing?
The Community and Restorative Justice Systems internship has been faced with new obstacles every day while our current political climate is in turmoil more than ever. We decided to focus on the criminal justice system, specifically reentry and prison conditions. Additionally, we investigated the current education system and policing in the Lehigh Valley.
There are a couple of components to our internship that went into our final projects. The first has to do with education. We looked at how Pennsylvania’s current curriculum reflects false narratives about our past. We created presentations critiquing and recommending fixes to the current curriculum. Additionally, we have all written op-eds to explain our experiences with the research we have found about the criminal justice system and the education system. [See Anti-Racist Curriculum Resources suggestions prepared by intern Sara Bender [Lafayette ’21].
Finally, we have set up contacts to interview people who are currently incarcerated or were formerly incarcerated to add to StoryCorps. StoryCorps’ mission statement “is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.” Our goal for our contribution to StoryCorps is to amplify the voices of those usually hidden and silenced in our society. Due to COVID-19, these recordings were canceled, but may be resumed once we are able to get inside the prisons for interviews.
Meet the Interns
- Mackenzi Berner (Lafayette ‘23)
- Sarah Bender (Lafayette ‘21)
- Sumini Siyambalapitiya (Lafayette ‘21)
We want to thank the following individuals for their insights and connections during our internship, especially for being flexible as we moved remote:
- Dr. Bonnie Winfield, Director and Founder of The Journey Home Program for Women
- David Isay, Founder and President of StoryCorps Inc.
- Jason Schiffer, Chief of Police at Lehigh University
- Jeff Troxell, Director of Public Safety at Lafayette College
- Jim Meyer, Associate Director and Chief of Police at Lafayette College
- Dr. John Bailie, President and Associate Professor at the International Institute for Restorative Practices
- Dr. Joseph Roy, Superintendent of Schools for the Bethlehem Area School District
- Julie Zaebst, Senior Policy Advocate at ACLU of Pennsylvania
- Kevin Heil, Lieutenant at Lafayette College
- Laura Savenelli, Assistant Director Impact Operations at United Way
- Officer Lora Martin, Crime Prevention at Lehigh University
- Maria Santiago, Archivist at StoryCorps Inc.
- Maureen Barden, Pennsylvania Parole Board Member
- Michael Lear, Owner of Pangea Yoga and Trauma Recovery Yoga Instructor and Lead Trainer Board Member with The Shanthi Project
- Naiymah A. Sanchez, Trans Justice Program Coordinator for ACLU of Pennsylvania
- Dr. Nandini Sikand, International Entertainment Professional and Assistant Professor at Lafayette College
- Vivian Robeldo-Shorey, Director of Student Services & Minority Affairs for Bethlehem Area School District