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Restorative justice conference at UWPlatteville Friday
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The “Currents of Restorative Justice” conference will be held in the UW–Platteville Ullsvik Hall Nohr Gallery Friday, Nov. 15 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The conference is hosted by the Ridge and Valley Restorative Justice Program, an organization that works with victims, offenders and communities to provide support and facilitate services that promote healing and reconciliation.

Restorative justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior. It is accomplished through cooperative processes that include the victim, the offender and the community. Through restorative justice programs, the voices of victims can be heard and offenders are held accountable for their actions.

The conference is open to anyone who is interested in finding out more about this justice model, including students, teachers, criminal justice professionals, police officers, human services professionals, judges, legislators and community members.

“Restorative justice is a philosophy that asserts that three parties are involved when a crime occurs: victims, offenders and the greater community,” said Robin Cline, director of Ridge and Valley Restorative Justice. “In practice, it works with each party in an effort to bring healing and to — where possible — restore things nearer to how they were before the crime occurred. A common way to bring about communication between these parties is through conferencing. This includes an honest and frank dialogue between the offender and the victim, which allows healing to begin. The restorative justice philosophy holds the offender accountable for his or her actions, provides opportunities for victims and their families to share how the offense has affected their lives and identifies what the victims and families need in order to bring some sense of closure.

“We are hopeful that this conference will encourage greater utilization of restorative justice principles in schools, human service organizations, police departments, court systems and more. We are also hopeful that this conference will assist in building a solid network of community collaborators who can help bring this issue to the forefront of the Wisconsin justice system.”

Key values of restorative justice include opportunities for victims, offenders and community members to meet to talk about the crime and its effects; for victims to be empowered to participate in the justice process, to ask that their needs be addressed and to have a forum to share their stories; for offenders to make amends for the harm they have caused; for offenders to be reintegrated and included into the community so they can be contributing members; and for everyone affected by the crime to participate in its resolution.

“Restorative justice is a really interesting approach to holding the offender responsible for the crime,” said Keith Lucas, who is interning as the assistant director of Ridge and Valley Restorative Justice and is a senior criminal justice major at UW–Platteville from Lake Mills. “Studies have shown that this philosophy has been successful at reducing the rate that offenders re-offend because it brings crime victims and their families, offenders and community members together to work toward a resolution.”

The conference will include a presentation by crime victim/survivor and Wisconsin Restorative Justice Coalition Secretary Tanya Nelson; a panel discussion with professionals who use restorative justice in the criminal justice field; and discussion groups.