Harm and Healing
The Initiative on Restorative Justice and Healing (IRJH) was launched in 2021 to teach law students, and the broader legal community, how to utilize restorative justice practices within our courts and communities to facilitate healing, build bridges and bring about a more just and inclusive society.
Grounded in the Catholic intellectual tradition and aligned with St. Thomas Law’s social justice mission, the IRJH is committed to educating law students and the legal community about restorative justice and providing them with tools they can use as an alternative or complement to traditional punitive systems.
What Is Restorative Justice?
Restorative justice is a worldwide movement that seeks to respond to harm in a way that fosters accountability and healing by inviting practitioners to enter the wound of another by accompanying them as they tell their stories.
Responding to a growing demand
Education and Outreach
The IRJH offers a course on Restorative Justice, Law and Healing for upper-level students at St. Thomas Law and facilitates a university-wide working group on restorative practices for faculty, staff and students. We also maintain partnerships in the community and in Catholic dioceses throughout the United States.
Events and Programming
The IRJH offers a variety of programming, including conferences, colloquia and webinars on restorative justice and restorative practices. These programs are most often co-sponsored with partners who bring expertise in this area and varying perspectives to each event.
News from the IRJH
Many of us who worked in the chancery office of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis remember vividly the date of September 23, 2013. This was the date that Minnesota Public Radio published a detailed investigative article regarding Curtis Wehmeyer and the multiple red flags not heeded by Archdiocesan officials. Wehmeyer, now defrocked, went on to sexually abuse multiple minors of the same family. The article spread through the Twin Cities community like wildfire resulting in anger, dismay, and many questions on the part of Catholics and clergy in the Archdiocese. I had just begun serving as delegate for safe environment the month before the bombshell article broke and had plenty of questions myself which I began asking of those in leadership above me. MPR followed that fall with multiple other articles which resulted in a near implosion of the Archdiocese in the months and years that followed: the vicar general resigned; the Archdiocese filed for bankruptcy; in 2015 the Archdiocese was criminally charged for failure to protect children; and shortly after, Archbishop John Nienstedt and Bishop Lee Piche resigned. I want to bring you up to speed now to this fall – ten years after the scandal first […]
Join us at the University of St Thomas School of Law in October for the first, in-person national Catholic conference on restorative justice! The breadth of breakout sessions topics at the National Catholic Restorative Justice Conference expands the conversation and explores the many applications of restorative practices. We are excited to welcome folks from all over the country to Minneapolis for this event. Here’s more on the 18 outstanding breakout sessions on the conference schedule. Be sure to check out the five plenary panel sessions that will also be featured at the conference; they are listed on this blog post. Prof. Dan Philpott, who will present a breakout session on Friday afternoon, will also present a talk titled, Eucharistic Justice: A Catholic Politics, on Wednesday, October 4th at The Basilica of Saint Mary. Everyone is welcome and registration is available at the link. Friday, October 6th – 10:45 am till Noon Opening our Hearts to Truth and Healing with Sr. Georgia Christensen, Meg Paulino, & Jane Comeau, Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration Getting RJ Moving Within A Parish with Andrew Prinzing, Partners in Restorative Initiatives & William Casey, Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church Synodality and Restorative Practices: Forming […]
We are excited to welcome folks from all over the country to Minneapolis for the first, in-person national Catholic conference on restorative justice next month! Registration closes soon and there are a variety of options, including full, three-day passes; one-day passes; group registrations; and scholarships. Here’s more on the five outstanding plenary panel sessions on the conference schedule. Be sure to check out the 18 breakout sessions that will also be featured at the conference; they are listed on the conference registration site. Signs of the Times 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM, October 5 In Gaudium et Spes the Second Vatican Council calls upon the Church to “read the signs of the times” that we may interpret them in the light of the Gospel and respond in ways that build God’s kingdom. In this plenary session, we hear from four prominent leaders in restorative justice and the Catholic Church as they offer context and call for addressing the urgent needs for healing in today’s world and Church. John Carr, Founding Director, Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown Cheryl Demmert Fairbanks, Esq. (Virtual), Attorney and Tribal Court of Appeals Justice, Tlingit-Tsimshian Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ (Virtual), […]
In June of 2021 my husband and I were driving back from Saint Paul to our home in downtown Minneapolis. The stretch of Lake Street that we take from our daughter’s home back to our place includes the Minneapolis Third Police Precinct building, the flashpoint following the killing of George Floyd in May of 2020. A total of 167 buildings were burned in the weekend after his death, civil unrest sparked by the fury people felt after seeing the nearly nine-minute video. About a year had passed and many buildings had been demolished leaving empty lots surrounded by chain link fence. The buildings that were still standing were in varying states of repair, many were wrapped in street art-covered plywood. As we sat at a stoplight, I noticed one message that said, “Restorative Justice Over Criminal Justice.” It literally jumped out at me amid the flurry of images. We were preparing to launch an initiative on restorative justice at the University of Saint Thomas School of Law and it felt like a “hit between the eyes” sign. Providence! I knew I wasn’t the only one profoundly touched by the work of these artists and I was heartened to later see […]
Past IRJH Events
Locked Out: Concepts of Criminality & Housing Security
This Catholic Charities Social Justice Assembly series program asks the questions, "What come to mind when you hear the word criminal?" "How does that impact your understanding of crime?" Watch this group of local experts discuss how criminality impacts housing insecurity and how we might shift the conversation.
Meet Our Leadership
The Initiative on Restorative Justice and Healing was launched at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in 2021.
Fr. Daniel Griffith
Fr. Griffith serves as the Wenger Family Faculty Fellow of Law. He teaches Catholic Thought, Law and Policy; Jurisprudence; and Restorative Justice, Law and Healing.
Julie Craven is a former corporate executive. In addition to the IRJH, she supports the restorative justice work in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Hank Shea is a law professor and a fellow in the Holloran Center. He also teaches at the University of Arizona College of Law.
Amy Levad is an associate professor of theology at St. Thomas. Her work draws upon sacramental and liturgical ethics to argue for social justice and criminal justice reform.
Give to the IRJH
Gifts to the IRJH help to address a growing demand for expertise and education in restorative practices—in communities and for future lawyers and the broader legal community, as they learn how to utilize restorative justice practices within our courts and communities to facilitate healing, build bridges and bring about a more just and inclusive society