University of Vermont

Restorative Justice Conference Attracts International Slate of Scholars, Practitioners and Policy Makers

Kathy Fox
UVM sociologist Kathy Fox will speak at the conference on "Trying to Restore Justice: The Bureaucratic Constraints in Implementing Restorative Justice in New Zealand Corrections and Beyond." (Photo: Ben Sarle)

The implementation of restorative justice and its focus on bringing together the victim, offender and members of the community to repair harm caused by a crime has put Vermont at the forefront of the alternative justice practice. It’s an ongoing process, however, with the coordination of regulatory agencies, communities and families to bring about responsive regulation to solve complex issues still presenting major challenges.

An international slate of experts on restorative justice practices and the emerging field of regulatory affairs will discuss how to merge these critical components at the upcoming Restorative Justice, Responsive Regulation & Complex Problems Conference on July 15-18 at UVM's Davis Center.

“Nationally and internationally, grass-roots groups, governments and researchers call for collaboration in tackling our most intractable or ‘wicked’ problems that impact families and communities. But few are able to take the next steps beyond cosmetic change to achieving and sustaining the working relationships that both set things right for people who are affected by crime and wrongdoing while at the same time holding to account people who have behaved badly” says Gale Burford, professor emeritus of social work and chair of the conference's steering committee. “Without this coordination, families and government cannot respond in timely ways to the uniqueness of each situation, let alone craft seamless links around needs that are more universal. We are hoping this conference generates ideas for how to address these issues by bringing together all of the people involved in tackling complex problems, both those who are affected by them and those with expertise in helping people to regulate their behavior."

Sponsored through the College of Education and Social Services by the Community Justice Consortium (CJC), a group brought together in 2005 by UVM and the Vermont Agency of Human Services to stimulate relevant research and education, the conference features more than 50 experts from 14 countries. John Braithwaite, distinguished professor and founder of RegNet (the Regulatory Institutions Network) at the Australian National University, will give a keynote address titled "The Evidence for Restorative Justice and Responsive Regulation." Valerie Braithwaite, professor, School of Regulation, Justice and Diplomacy, College of Asia and the Pacific, the Australian National University will speak on "Regulation and Social Capital," while Leigh Goodmark, University of Baltimore, School of Law Director, Clinical Education and Family Law Clinic, co-director, Center on Applied Feminism, will give a keynote titled "Creating Alternatives to the Criminal Justice System: Responsive Regulation and Intimate Partner Abuse."

"Professor Gale Burford is an internationally known scholar who several years ago founded the restorative justice consortium at UVM," said Fayneese Miller, dean of the College of Education and Social Services. "The consortium brings together UVM faculty, members from the various legal and justice communities, and social service personnel to discuss how Vermont responds to, supports, and implements practices that impact victims, offenders and community members. The conference on restorative justice, is a major component in the college's efforts to bring attention to the work of the consortium and highlight its importance to the state, local and academic communities. We, in the college, are pleased to be a part of a conference that includes some of the most highly regarded scholars in the area of restorative justice. And, a conference that brings critical attention to the quality of work occurring here at UVM and in Vermont."

Other conference highlights include Dorothy Roberts, the 14th Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor and George A. Weiss University Professor of Law & Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, who will speak on "Black Mothers, Child Welfare, and Prison: The Need for Restorative Justice." Margaret Burnham, professor of law and director of the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, Northeastern University School of Law, will speak about the North restoring justice to the victims of Jim Crow violence. Other speakers, including members of the UVM faculty, will address needed reforms in family law, education, prisoner re-entry, child and family welfare and youth justice.

Daily panels featuring breakout sessions with expert presenters will address the complex issues of power and privilege that sustain exploitive and harmful behaviors in different social environments and propose creative solutions.

"It is fitting that this international conference is taking place in our state," said Gov. Shumlin. "Vermont and Vermonters have a long-standing practice of refusing to acquiesce to the status quo. Vermont was the first state to abolish slavery, the first state to pass a civil union law and then the first to legislate marriage equality without a court order. Now we have become a national leader in disentangling the public health and criminal justice systems with an eye toward finding more effective solutions to the opiate problem plaguing much of this country. Vermonters pride themselves on questioning so-called conventional wisdom, we are not shy about speaking truth to power, and we celebrate creative, effective, alternative approaches to solving problems."

UVM President Tom Sullivan and Provost David Rosowsky are among a list of guests and speakers invited by the steering committee, which received support from UVM, the State of Vermont, and the Vermont Law School.

“The University of Vermont is committed to restorative practices and restorative justice,” said Sullivan. “Restorative practices and restorative justice have been established across the university in the Division of Student Affairs, Academic Support Programs, Center for Student Ethics and Standards, and the Office of Student and Community Relations, among others. Residential Life at the university has embraced restorative practices as their departmental philosophy and offers training each year for staff members. This conference provides a wonderful opportunity for us to advance restorative practices, restorative justice, and responsive regulation for the benefit of our community and our state.”

Proponents from the community, government, business, and academia on the integration of restorative justice and responsive regulation will also be on hand and are encouraged to register through July 5 or at the conference. There will be a hosted reception on the evening of July 15.