Vermont Law School Awarded $3M To Expand National Center On Restorative Justice

. . . Leahy-backed funding helped VLS, in partnership with UVM And others, to establish center to promote best practices in restorative justice

(TUESDAY, February 2, 2021) – U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Tuesday announced that Vermont Law School will receive a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to continue operations at the National Center on Restorative Justice.  Leahy, who will serve as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee in the 117th Congress, has led a several-year effort to establish and fund the Center.  Leahy also has been a leader on criminal justice reform as the most senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Center, a collaboration with the University of Vermont, the University of San Diego, the DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP), and other partners, focuses on engaging criminal justice professionals, community members, educators, and social service providers with incarcerated individuals and broaden their understanding of the justice system and restorative justice.  Through restorative justice practices, offenders are rehabilitated through reconciliation with victims, their communities and other means.  The efforts are known to reduce recidivism, and help break the cycle of violence.  Reducing recidivism and balancing the social divide have long been bipartisan goals.  Mass incarceration, the school-to-prison pipeline, and racial, economic, and geographic inequalities plague the justice systems and create a compelling national need to educate and train the next generation of justice leaders who can constructively address the current and emerging needs of the country with regards to restorative justice and social equity.

Leahy said:  “There was no doubt that when Vermont Law School and its partners like the University of Vermont were awarded the inaugural grant to establish the National Center on Restorative Justice, the Department of Justice found the right home for this initiative.  Prison reform cannot just mean changing how we house offenders.  We need to rethink our approach to the entire justice system.  The National Center on Restorative Justice is leading a national discussion on how we can effectively and proactively implement restorative justice initiatives that support our communities, as well as our incarcerated population.  I’m pleased to see the Justice Department continue this partnership in Vermont.”

Vermont Law School Interim President and Dean Beth McCormack said:  “This grant is great news for Vermont Law School, its partner organizations and anyone who believes that we can do better than a criminal justice system that is rife with racial, economic, and geographic inequalities, destroys too many families and costs too much.  We commend Senator Leahy for seeing the shortcomings of the current system and working hard to come up with solutions.”

University of Vermont President Suresh Garimella said:  “UVM is grateful to Senator Leahy for his continued support and advocacy for the National Center on Restorative Justice.  We are proud to partner with Vermont Law School on this work that is so critical to our society, and look forward to advancing the ideals of rehabilitation and fairness across Vermont and the nation."

Leahy has led efforts in Congress to establish a National Center on Restorative Justice, culminating in the first grant being awarded to Vermont Law School and its partners in March 2020.  Leahy secured additional funding to continue the Center’s operations in the annual spending bill passed in December.  

Stephanie Clark, the Director of the National Center on Restorative Justice, said:  “The funding is going to allow the National Center to introduce restorative justice principles and practices to more students, more professionals, and more communities.  This is going to make a difference in peoples’ lives across the country.  We are deeply appreciative of Senator Leahy’s championing of the National Center and this work.”

Professors Kathy Fox (Sociology) and Abigail Crocker (Statistics) lead UVM's interdisciplinary research group, the Justice Research Initiative (JRI), which serves as the research arm of the National Center.

Fox said:  “I am delighted to continue the work of improving justice responses to harm, and to contribute to the research base on restorative justice.  This aligns with our other current projects in Vermont prisons, such as developing a restorative pilot unit and infusing restorative justice education into all that we do.”

Crocker said:  “A data-driven approach is essential for systems change like this. By supporting research to advance restorative justice principles and practices we are well-poised to address some of the biggest issues facing our justice system today, including social inequalities, community impacts, costs, and more." 

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