On Saturday, April 5th, just over 20 people from the surrounding community gathered in the Academic Building to listen, share, and plan action to pass the Youth PROMISE Act, S. 1307. PROMISE stands for Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education. Dan Kahn, National Field Director of The Peace Alliance (peacealliance.org), and Sally Kaplan, Coordinator of The Student Peace Alliance (studentpeacealliance.org), shared information about the Act, principles of restorative justice, initiatives in other states that are working, and ways that attendees could put passion into action in Illinois.
Participants included representatives of Illinois and Will County Pax Christi chapters, members of the Diocese of Joliet Restorative Justice Committee, and others concerned about re-imagining the prison system and finding ways to prevent crime rather than simply incarcerating convicted persons. This shift in thinking is directly tied to restorative justice practices which promote healing among persons and communities affected by crime rather than simply doling out ineffectual punishments. As the 2.4 million incarcerated persons in our nation would suggest, we are enthusiastic about locking people up, but not as concerned about whether or not that propensity for incarceration is reducing crime or helping our communities to be safer and more peaceful. Depending on whose statistics you examine, or whose interpretation of those statistics, the overall rate of crime is relatively static or possibly declining. And yet, the prisons remain overcrowded, the drug trade is unabated, and victims and communities have few tools for healing the harm done by crime.
I walked away from the Peace Alliance meeting excited for a couple of reasons. One, I think it is always energizing to network with like-minded, like-valued persons interested in working toward change that is hopeful and just. Two, a Lewis student stopped by to speak with Sally Kaplan, and there seems to be some interest in starting a Student Peace Alliance of some sort at Lewis. Since there are a couple of groups on campus focused on human rights and justice already, networking needs to happen so that interested parties are included and students’ voices are heard. Hopefully, these connections will happen to ensure that we continue to grow a Culture of Peace at Lewis. If any interested students catch this blog, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 815-836-5829. I look forward to the conversation.