Beyond Punishment: Restorative Justice Practice, Policy, & Potential: Welcome & Land Acknowledgment

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I want to start this morning’s program with a land acknowledgment. The University of Chicago sits on the occupied lands traditionally stewarded by many Native peoples Including the Council of the Three Fires– the Ojibwe, Potawatomi, and Odawa nations– as well as the Menominee, Miami, and Ho-Chunk nations. One of the largest urban native communities resides in Chicago today with more than 100 tribal nations represented, some due to federal relocation policies. We are grateful for the– we acknowledge the sacrifices that these people have made, and we thank you for this opportunity to come together.

I am Herschella Conyers. I’m the director of the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Clinic at the University of Chicago. This symposium is a student organized, directed, and run symposium. Our goal is to bring together communities from across all areas to talk about restorative justice practices, what restorative justice is. We are very honored to have so many of you with us today, joining us and sharing in this endeavor.

I’m going to be very brief. We have an action packed day. It is full. We will let people in the breakout room. You meet more.

You will get to a breakout room. We will try to direct everyone to where they need to be. I think I speak probably on behalf of most people here. Zoom is not a substitute for a community, but it is the best that we can do. And we thought it was important even in this odd context to come together.

So thank you for being here. And at this time, I would like to introduce the honorable Thaddeus Wilson, who is here on behalf of the cosponsor of the symposium, the Judicial Council.

He can tell you more about that. Judge Wilson is the president of the Illinois Judicial Council and presently is a supervising judge at 26th and California hearing criminal cases. Good morning Judge Wilson, and welcome, and thank you for joining us.

– Good morning, and thank you. I’m judge Thaddeus Wilson, president of the Illinois Judicial Council. On behalf of the Illinois Judicial Council, I would like to thank each of you for attending this important symposium on restorative justice. The IJC is a proud partner with the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Clinic of the University of Chicago Law School over these past years to put on this event. I would like to thank Professor Herschella Conyers and her entire team for shouldering the load to pull off this symposium during the pandemic.

This year’s theme of the Illinois Judicial Council is making justice just. Through today’s program, we will explore how making justice just is more than ensuring fair trials and rooting out systemic and implicit biases. But it’s also rethinking how we approach the concept of justice and equality in terms of punishment, rehabilitation, and restoration, especially when it comes to our youth. On its face, the notion of restorative justice might seem counter-intuitive or counterproductive to many of us. But once you delve into the purpose and practice, you see how critically important the concept is to repairing harm to victims, restoring our youth to youthful citizenship without tearing them down beyond a point of recovery or canceling them altogether, thus reducing recidivism.

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