Zehr Cited for Restorative Justice Work

Howard Zehr displays the award received from the Restorative Justice Association of Virginia. Howard Zehr displays the award received from the Restorative Justice Association of Virginia.
Photo by Jim Bishop

A coalition of organizations working in criminal justice, conflict mediation and related fields has cited an Eastern Mennonite University professor for his many years of involvement in this arena.

Howard Zehr, professor of restorative justice and co-director of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) at EMU, received the first annual award, named in his honor, from the Restorative Justice Association of Virginia.

The organization gave Dr. Zehr the award following his plenary address at a conference the group held recently in Charlottesville.

“It was a complete surprise,” Zehr said. “I felt particularly honored to be recognized by this group because I feel like more of my time in this field has been spent working in other parts of the country and the world.”

Zehr is considered one of the founders of the restorative justice field. While restorative justice concepts extend to addressing issues ranging from wrongdoing in church and mediating conflict in schools, Zehr has worked especially with criminal justice issues.

In this area, restorative justice focuses on addressing victim needs, holding offenders accountable for harm done and involving people in the process of resolution. Often this includes an opportunity for victims and offenders to meet to discuss the harm and the resulting needs and to develop plans for restitution and other needs the victim and/or community may have.

The Restorative Justice Association of Virginia, formed in 2003, is made up of more than a dozen organizations across the state that use restorative justice principles in their work with crime victims and offenders. The Community Mediation Center, based in Harrisonburg, launched the first such effort in the early 1980s.

Zehr is scheduled to present the restorative justice model to the Alternative Dispute Resolution Subcommittee of the Futures Commission Task Force on Judical Administration in Richmond on Dec. 28.

Zehr joined the EMU faculty in 1996 after serving 18 years with Mennonite Central Committee’s Office on Crime and Justice. He has written numerous books, including “The Little Book of Restorative Justice” (Good Books) and the foundational work on the subject, “Changing Lenses” (1990), published by Herald Press.