Andi Stepnick’s restorative justice class recently celebrated their fall graduation at the Charles Bass Correctional Complex. The course created a unique partnership between prisoners, prison officials, college students, local congregations and community groups. Students performed sociological analyses of the criminal justice system and explored the system’s impact on communities, particularly the African American community. They examined issues of crime and justice, corrections and imprisonment, restorative justice, harm reduction, victimization, parole, probation and re-entry.
The course sought to create an environment that would facilitate the honest exchange of ideas through dialogue between people on the inside and outside, and to develop an experiential setting for learning from and listening to each other in order to more effectively define reentry support. The key is the mutual partnership, a gathered community, meeting regularly over the course of a semester, in order to challenge stereotypes and assumptions and increase the effectiveness of the course work and ministry.
Students created projects in keeping with the course focus on restorative justice. The projects were not just theoretical: they were designed to be sustainable and to create meaningful social change. Project titles included, “Workforce Development,” “TRIONashville.com,” and “Where’s the Justice.”