The Adler University Institute for Public Safety and Social Justice (IPSSJ) has joined a new collaborative led by the Office of the Lt. Governor’s Justice, Equity, and Opportunity (JEO) Initiative to launch the Healing Beyond Harm Restorative Justice Pilot. This restorative justice project is the first of its kind in the state. Others collaborating on the initiative include victim services units within the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), the Illinois Prisoner Review Board (PRB), and the Office of the Attorney General.
To promote healing and restoration for survivors of violent crimes, this pilot program aims to use the power of words to fill the space that is often created by pain, to be a bridge to healing from one person to another, and in the process, break down obstacles to moving forward beyond the harm.
The first component of the pilot will be an apology letter bank program, where survivors of a crime can receive an apology letter from those who caused them harm, which can lead to the second component of the pilot, a facilitated harm dialogue. Illinois will be the 12 state to initiate a letter bank.
If pursued, survivors of crimes can initiate a restorative conference that will allow for a harm dialogue process with the person who caused them harm — facilitated by a trained, impartial restorative justice practitioner.
“Crime survivors and those who caused the harm are typically blocked from having contact with one another outside the courtroom. This may be for protection, but these blockages prevent aspects of healing and leave both parties with emotional trauma and unanswered questions,” said Elena Quintana, executive director of IPSSJ. “By creating the Healing Beyond Harm Restorative Justice Pilot, we are providing a legal means for those who committed crimes to apologize for their actions.
The methods we are implementing can provide clarity, understanding, and closure, especially in instances where violence occurred and creates spaces that legally allow people joined together by harmful actions to connect in a healing journey.”
Crime survivors in other states who have participated in similar programming have lower post-traumatic stress symptoms, a better quality of life and greater levels of satisfaction with the criminal legal system.
“Far too often, crime survivors are left to suffer in silence and some of the people who cause harm fail to process the magnitude of their actions. This pilot is another example of how the JEO Initiative collaborates with state agencies and community stakeholders to improve public safety outcomes. This program will allow a transformative approach for harmed people to be accompanied throughout a process of healing and accountability,” said Yaacov Delaney, director of the JEO Initiative.
The Healing Beyond Harm Restorative Justice Pilot aims to conduct anywhere from five to 10 harm dialogues in its first year and support the preparation of a hundred apology letters or more.
This crime survivor-centered program will engage all the primary stakeholders in a decision-making process designed to restore balance to the affected people and communities.
IPSSJ will work with collaborators to ensure the highest quality of victim service support services is utilized.
For more information about the Healing Beyond Harm Pilot program, visit http://www.healingbeyondharm.org.
“As a victim services coordinator, I understand firsthand the importance of empowering survivors of crime and centering approaches that support their needs throughout their journey towards healing. I am grateful to be part of an initiative that will also provide individuals who commit acts of harm with the ability to understand the impact of their actions, engage in peaceful dialogue, and hopefully, find forgiveness for themselves and others.” Cherri Price, IDOC – Victim Services
“Identifying the humanity in each other is a fundamental step in the healing process. The Healing Beyond Harm – RJ pilot program offers victims and families the unique opportunity to process painful life experiences through conversation, empathy and understanding.” Jill Thornton, Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office – Victim Services
“Restorative Justice is an approach where relationships can be built and repaired. It is an approach to justice that seeks to repair harm by providing an opportunity for those harmed and those who take responsibility for the harm to communicate in order to address their individual needs.” Edith Crigler, Chairwoman of Illinois PRB