Howard Zehr.jpgJustice, like love, can mean pretty much anything. Some people show their love by demanding that others convert to their religion. Others administer justice by firebombing entire cities. It all depends on one’s definition of love and justice.

Howard Zehr, the founder of the modern “restorative justice” movement, will be in town this week to talk about justice, and how it can be turned from a retributive act to a restorative process.

See more after the jump.

Modern justice systems are designed to take victims out the equation. Laws broken are committed against the state, and the state then doles out justice based on pre-determined punishments that fit the crime (that’s the theory, anyway). Justice is all about punishment and retribution.

This approach to justice has worked to more or less keep order over the last millennia. But in leaving the victims outside the process, in some ways it hurts both victims and perpetrators. Restorative justice is about bringing the victim and perpetrator together through a mediation process, in an attempt at reconciliation. Having perpetrators acknowledge their violations to their victims can be surprisingly therapeutic for everyone. The goal of restorative justice is not just to punish offenders, but to bring a community back into balance.

Howard Zehr is professor of Restorative Justice at the Center for Justice & Peacebuilding, Eastern Mennonite University. His book, Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime and Justice, has been a foundational work in the growing restorative justice movement.

He was also involved in setting up the local C-U Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP), which was started in local churches, but eventually moved to become an official option within the Champaign County justice system for juvenile offenders.

Zehr will be giving two public talks this week:

Lecture: “Restorative Justice: What it is, why it works, and what it can mean for us.”
Thursday Nov 6th, 4:00-5:00 P.M.
Knight Auditorium, Spurlock Museum, 600 S. Gregory St., Urbana:

All-Faith Workshop on Restorative Justice as a Way of Life.
Saturday Nov 8th, 1:00-4:30 P.M.
First Mennonite Church, 902 W. Springfield Ave, Urbana

Zehr was also interviewed last week by David Inge on Focus 580: See his interview here: http://will.uiuc.edu/media/focus081028b.mp3