School Projects / Social Issues

Why I support Adler and Restorative Justice

Citera_154x154Renee Citera is an Adler trustee who also serves on the President’s Advisory Council for St. Ambrose University. Ms. Citera most recently served as Vice President, Circulation at ALM, a trusted news source with real time news and insights for the legal industry. Prior to joining ALM, Renee spent 27 years at LexisNexis.

As an Adler University trustee, I have always been proud of the work the students and faculty do in the community—in particular, the collaborative nature of this work. Adler’s ability to find partners within the communities it serves is a true strength.

Recently I was attending the Red Mass at Holy Name Cathedral. This is a time when we pray for and bless lawyers and judges in the community for the work they do. I have been married to a lawyer for over 31 years and have many friends who are lawyers, so it is especially important to me.

During the mass, one speaker talked about the Catholic Lawyer Guild of Chicago, and its new challenge to work on restorative justice. The speaker shared that the Guild is working with Father Dave Kelly of Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation (PBMR). I was immediately struck as I recognized Father Kelly and PBMR as close partners with Adler’s Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice—also an alliance for advancing restorative justice in Chicago communities.

To see these wonderful people and organizations in the Chicago area focused on such critical needs in the community is not only encouraging but also energizing to me as an advocate for Adler. It gave me an opportunity to speak with others at the mass about Adler University, their work with Father Kelly and Precious Blood, and to explain the impact made possible by these three organizations and restorative justice in general.

I also feel compelled to share this with you.

If you’re unfamiliar, restorative justice is a powerfully constructive response to crime and violence, in that it brings offenders and victims together in order to understand one another and bring healing to both parties and the larger community—something that’s not possible with incarceration.

As Father Kelly would tell you, restorative justice requires an understanding that the underlying cause of violence and conflict within our communities is trauma. With this in mind, PBMR seeks to accompany youth and families who have been impacted by incarceration and violence and create an environment where they can address the trauma and stress in their lives.

In support of this mission, Adler manages a Learning Academy that provides training to PBMR’s network of restorative justice hubs. This training covers aspects such as the effects of an adverse childhood, trauma informed care, court accompaniment, restorative justice programming, working with LGBTQ youth, trauma-informed crisis intervention, mentoring, youth leadership, and more.

Additionally, Adler Community Health Services staffs a mental health clinic within PBMR to work with young people and their families.  This gives Adler students an opportunity to learn about restorative justice, and how best to administer needed community mental health supports, particularly in a neighborhood that experiences higher than average exposure to violence, poverty, and criminalization.

PBMR also has Social Justice Practicum students that participate annually.  These individuals help with miscellaneous tasks: whether it be with sports, arts, circles, or other programming, office operations, or other related work.

For its part, The Catholic Lawyers Guild is helping craft language that will enable the confidentiality of peacemaking circles—a critical factor in the partnership with the courts and community.

Restorative justice is critical in addressing the needs of those within our community who are overwhelmed by trauma and stress. I can’t say how proud I am to know three organizations helping to build up community resilience even as they strive to lessen the stress factors. If you believe in the importance of this work as much as I do, I strongly encourage you to lend your support.