February 10, 2009
ATLANTA - Georgia State University will soon provide a comprehensive resource to help those in the field of restorative justice learn from one another and to improve practices, through a national Web-based clearinghouse.
The Southern Council for Restorative Justice, based in Georgia State's School of Social Work, and the Consortium for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution in the College of Law plan to launch the Internet-based Restorative Justice Clearinghouse this summer.
Restorative justice practitioners work to help address the needs of victims and others in the criminal justice process, and seek to provide remedies in righting wrongs rather than to solely address punishment alone for those convicted of crimes. The concept has spread throughout the state, the nation, and internationally.
Efforts in restorative justice include defense-initiated victim outreach to victims of crime, family group conferencing, victim-offender dialogue, truth and reconciliation commissions, and community impact panels - all of which acknowledge harm and encourage dialogue.
"One of the major reasons we're launching the clearinghouse is that a lot of restorative justice work is either part of a larger system, a small element done by volunteers, or not really apparent," said Pamela Leonard, executive director of the SCRJ. "The clearinghouse will be an effort to identify what is being done in restorative justice."
"We hope to provide a virtual community of practitioners, because they all have a lot to share across many sectors," said Doug Yarn, professor of law and director of the CNCR (pictured above).
The clearinghouse will include a state-by-state guide to statutes, case law, agencies and programs. The clearinghouse will also provide a method of social networking to allow those in the field to interface with one another, as well as academic articles, legal resources and research into the field.
Restorative justice practitioners often focus on specific activities, specializing in issues such as aiding victims of violent crimes. The clearinghouse will allow those practitioners to help provide for victims and others who need services in a variety of fields in which the practitioner doesn't necessarily have expertise.
"I'm guided in part by the fact that I get many calls from people who want to help, or who want someone to point them to professionals in other agencies or institutes who are performing restorative justice," Leonard said. "We're trying to provide a Web-based response to those needs, so that practitioners can help identify others with expertise in other fields."
While social workers play a major role in restorative justice, lawyers have a stake in the field and provide major support for restorative justice efforts.
"Lawyers are in the unique position to bring together teams of professionals around a particular problem in a community, and to work with a team to address that problem," Yarn said.
Through networking, the field can be improved to better serve those impacted by crime.
"I think that constant accountability is an important value of restorative justice, and professionals need to speak with one another in order to achieve this," Leonard said.
For more about Georgia State's restorative justice and conflict resolution efforts, visit http://www.gcrj.org/ and http://law.gsu.edu/cncr.
Contact: Jeremy Craig