On Tuesday June 28, members of the Our Restorative Justice leadership team were honored to participate in the Juvenile Restorative Justice Symposium. Organized and presented by the the 2015-16 Public Interest Leadership Program and hosted by the Boston Bar Association, this event brought together representatives from a wide-range of perspectives, including the court, prosecution, defense, probation, and police departments in districts around Massachusetts.
Following opening remarks, Board President and acting Executive Director of OurRJ, Professor Susan Maze-Rothstein, moderated a panel on current applications of juvenile restorative justice practices in the Commonwealth. Also participating in the panel was Hon. Leslie Harris (ret.), former Suffolk County Juvenile Court Judge and current OurRJ board member. Other panel members included Middlesex County District Attorney Marian T. Ryan, Commissioner of Probation Edward Dolan, Arlington Chief of Police Fred Ryan, and Roxbury YAD Committee for Public Counsel Services attorney Ziyad Hopkins.
During the panel, Harris spoke about personal experiences in his past that could have benefitted from restorative justice practices, as well as why, from the perspective of a former juvenile court judge, restorative justice is so important as an alternative to traditional methods in the juvenile justice system. “I am not the same person I was when I was a teenager. There is a continuing process of maturity that happens throughout your life. We lock up people who have so much to give to our society and we throw away the key.”
Massachusetts State Senator James (Jamie) B. Eldridge was also in attendance and took the opportunity to highlight legislative proposals pending in the Commonwealth that incorporate restorative justice approaches, as well as ways that guests of the event could get involved.
Following the panel discussion, OurRJ Advisory board member Hon. Jay Blitzman reflected on his own journey and discussed the future of restorative justice in Massachusetts. “What I came to realize is that a restorative process, particularly circles, becomes a much richer way for young people to be heard. Youth are heard in a way that makes them a part of the process and solution, rather than just perpetually viewed as the problem.”
In concluding his remarks, Blitzman expressed the hope that, “Restorative justice should just be a way of communicating, a way of being, quite frankly.”