Nov. 10, 2004
Expanding on the work of former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice
Janine Geske, distinguished professor of law, the Marquette University
Law School is launching a Restorative Justice Initiative to create
a resource for victims, communities, and organizations interested
in restorative justice programs.
Restorative justice is a victim-centered response to crime that focuses on
the harm caused by offenders, as well as the need for the healing
of victims and community, while requiring the offenders to take
responsibility for their actions. It views criminal acts more
comprehensively than the judicial system because it recognizes
how offenders harm victims, communities, and even themselves by
"Many different people and entities are harmed by a criminal
act, says Geske. "It is often easy for an offender to dehumanize
their particular victim but also not to appreciate the harm he
or she has caused. Offenders need to appreciate the level of harm
they have caused and take responsibility for that harm.
The Offender/Victim Program
Geske and her law students facilitate two distinct forms of restorative
justice models: individual, face-to-face meetings between victims
and their offenders, and three-day group sessions for prisoners
and victims at the maximum security prison for men in Green Bay,
The adversarial justice system prohibits communication between
victims and offenders, Geske says, and the families of victims
often get angry and frustrated as the criminal case plays out.
In such cases where victims want to talk to the offender, restorative
justice programming can have an astounding impact.
The three-day sessions at the prison take a different approach.
These sessions are part of a semester-long course offered to prisoners
called Challenges and Possibilities. Over the course of three
days, prisoners take an in-depth look at the ripple effects of
crime, examine how crime has affected lives of many people, work
with crime victims, and explore ways to try to restore the harm.
"Victims talk about the profound impact that all this has
on them, Geske says.
"It's pretty darn unusual in a maximum security prison to
be allowed to share the depth of emotion we see, notes prison
teacher Ginny Vanden Branden. And it's due to Janine's ability
to convey a sense of safety and trust.
As a result of these experiences and conversations, the offenders
start thinking about their victims in a whole new light, and many
start truly taking on responsibility for the harm that they have
The Restorative Justice Initiative
The restorative justice initiative at the Marquette Law School
- law classes focusing on the history and theory of the restorative
- restorative justice clinical experience for law students,
- a resource for other Restorative Justice programs and center
for scholarship, research, and dialogue on restorative justice
for community members who are interested in restorative justice
education and programs.
International Restorative Justice Week
As part of the initiative, the Marquette Law School will host
several events in observance of International Restorative Justice
Week from November 15-19, 2004.
Friday, November 12
Dead Man Walking, a play written by Tim Robbins, presented
at the Helfaer Theatre. After the performance, Professor Janine
Geske will chair a talk-back segment on the death penalty.
Monday, November 15
Journeys of the Heart . A 20-minute documentary narrated
by actress Meryl Streep depicting Marquette Law School's Meditation
Clinic and Prof. Geske's restorative justice work at Green Bay
Wednesday, November 17
A panel discussion of Restorative Justice professionals describing
their programs hosted by the Alternative Dispute Resolution Society.
Thursday, November 18
Restorative Justice: Victims' Perspectives, Supporting Victims
and Communities Through the Healing Process, will feature
crime victims sharing their powerful experiences of victimization
and the healing process of restorative justice. Presenters will
include Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann and
Colleen Jo Winston, director of the Office of Victim Services
and Programs for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, among
Awards for an essay contest conducted in local high schools will
be awarded at this event as well. The topic is "What
is the effect of crime on victims and communities? The student
winners, their parents, and teachers/guidance counselors will
be invited to this program. The Wisconsin Department of Corrections
will conduct an identical contest with inmates.
For more information on the Restorative Justice Initiative or
any of these events, please contact Anne Broeker in the Office
of Public Affairs.