Unique class of the quarter: LSP 111 Restorative Justice

An image with the caption “Unique Class of the Quarter: LSP 111 (Restorative Justice)” on it.

Several assignments, 10 weeks, 4 incredible professors and tons of memories. This is a quick summary of what my first quarter at DePaul looked like as a freshman. Grateful at just how much this community has given me in such a short time, I’m compelled to stop and think about how can I give back to the same.

One of the most intriguing things about DePaul has to be its Vincentian mission. Looking back at the classes I picked this Fall, one specifically jumps out as a good example of the mission: LSP 111 Explore Chicago, Restorative Justice. This class gave its students a more direct way of learning how we can do exactly that – give back to the Chicago community.

Restorative Justice is an ingenious practice used as an alternate method to the current penal system. Instead of forcing people who have committed “low-level” crimes into a vicious cycle of falling back into jail again and again, this method allows the offenders to truly self-reflect and get another chance at life. After completing a “course” of sorts, their record essentially gets cleaned, ensuring that they will face fewer barriers in their lives later on (like when seeking a job).

An image of a college class with the caption “Field trip: visiting the Chicago History Museum”

My professor for this class, Joe Rice, gave us a great introductory class to Restorative Justice. He used a unique “Crawl – Walk – Run” method for our field trips. We started with small trips near our campus like at the “Chicago History Museum” and eventually worked our way up to visit the “Cook County Jail”. Through it all, we met many kinds of people:

  1. People who have been enrolled in this program.
  2. Judges who help these people.
  3. People who help make change happen (like working on Illinois’ bail reform).

… and more.

Through it all, this method helped us get perspectives from multiple points of view and helped us get a feel for the concept of Restorative Justice.

An image of a college class with the caption “Field trip: visiting the Restorative Justice Court; 📍 Avondale”

I got very interested in the approach Restorative Justice takes. It forces the offender to take full accountability using multiple methods, such as sitting in a circle with the people against whom they have committed a crime, to understand the depth of their actions and to what extent they have negatively affected others. This is called a peace circle. Later, they are enrolled in a program which drives them to dive deep into their own lives and the issues which made them take the wrong step in question, to make sure they never repeat it. Upon graduating from this program with the help of a restorative justice judge and workers, the offender walks out as a free person, free of any charges, having learned a lesson, and ready to live a life for the better.

This class ended with a bang. We had to lead our own peace groups as our final examination. The topic our group picked for discussion was “Reform in Prisons Using Restorative Justice”. By the end of the quarter, one thing was sure; we students had enough courage to start important conversations and discussions using the Restorative Justice knowledge we had accumulated throughout this class. Whether that might be regarding an issue we encounter at our workplace in the future or a miscommunication between our family members, we will be able to successfully lead a peace circle to talk out what exactly went wrong and how everyone involved can right it.

An image of a college class with the caption “Field trip: visiting the Cook County Jail”

Different types of students picked this class for various reasons. I saw future journalists, lawyers, and even computer scientists get moved by the message of this class for the better. It is very evident that thanks to this class and our professor, we students have learned a valuable way of revolutionising the community we all are a part of.

I would highly encourage interested (or future) students to give this class a chance. Keep an eye out for a similar class to open for the spring quarter and sign up! I hope you will also have a positive experience as I did.

– Xo, Tani