Center for Restorative Justice Gives Hope to Victims, Offenders
Loyola Law School’s Center for Restorative Justice (CRJ) hosted its second-annual “Another Way Conference” in the spring 2012 semester, and it was just one example of the center's innovative holistic approach to criminal justice and reform. It brought together a cross-section of legal experts, politicians, social workers, law enforcement officials and many more for a timely discussion of restorative justice issues.
The day-long event was titled, “Imagining the Future of a Justice that Restores.” The conference, which was held at Loyola Marymount University’s (LMU) Westchester campus, illustrated the various ways in which current restorative justice theories and practices in the United States mesh with traditional Jesuit teachings. Each panel highlighted a different facet of the problems facing America’s correctional system. The morning started with a conversation between LMU president David W. Burcham ’84 and Tani Cantil-Sakauye, chief justice of the California Supreme Court.
Juvenile justice was a major topic at the event as California lawmakers were debating the passage of SB9. According to the group Fair Sentencing For Youth, the proposed law would provide a young person sentenced to life without parole the opportunity to “petition a court to review his or her case after serving between 10 and 25 years in prison. If the offender meets certain criteria, the court would review the case and decide, after listening to all sides, if a lower sentence should be imposed.”
On Sept. 30, 2012, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law SB9. CRJ Director Scott Wood said that the new law would be an important improvement to the current system. “It’s terrible to think that you’ve got a couple hundred people in California prisons who are given a sentence that says ‘you’re going to die in prison.’ They got that when they were 14, 15 years old. It’s just something
that’s better,” Wood said.
Francisco (“Franky”) Carrillo, Jr., who served 20 years in Folsom State Prison on murder charges for which he was later exonerated and is now an undergraduate student at LMU, spoke of the death penalty’s effect on the Latino community. The center named its annual award in honor of Carrillo, Jr., and bestowed the award posthumously this year to restorative-justice advocate Herbert David Blake. Carrillo and Blake met at Folsom while Blake was serving a sentence for a murder he did commit and the two became close friends.
Second-year law student Peter Borenstein was first introduced to the principles of restorative justice while working for the Center for Court Innovation’s Youth Court in Brooklyn, NY, and said he chose to attend Loyola based on the national reputation of the school’s restorative justice program.
“Loyola is definitely the best school that has anything resembling a restorative-justice program. I think we’re really lucky,” Borenstein said. He agrees with Wood that the center is well positioned to be a restorative justice leader in Southern California and beyond, but added that the key to its success is the hard work of Wood and Seth Weiner, CRJ co-director, in building a coalition of partners. “Both Professor Wood and Seth are pretty amazing at networking and making connections,” Borenstein said. “I don’t think that’s really happening anywhere else.”