October 09, 2019
NEWBURGH, N.Y. -
Jenifer Lee-Gonyea, an associate professor at Mount Saint Mary College, discussed the applications of restorative justice at a recent talk on campus.
Crime victims are often looking for closure, but according to Jenifer Lee-Gonyea, an associate professor at Mount Saint Mary College, many researchers believe that the current criminal justice system doesn’t always satisfy this desire.
On Thursday, October 3, Lee-Gonyea delivered a presentation on an alternative solution: restorative justice. In her interactive talk, Lee-Gonyea explained that restorative justice is a process by which the victim, the offender, and the community work together to right wrongs.
During her talk, Lee-Gonyea presented research on what crime victims typically desire and what hinders reformation in criminal offenders. She also presented research on how many of these needs are met by the current justice system. According to the research, says Lee-Gonyea, the current system doesn’t always deliver on the desires of victims and places criminals in environments that are counterproductive to their reformation.
However, restorative justice, according to Lee-Gonyea, can aid greatly in reformation and delivers on far more of the victim’s needs. Restorative justice focuses on relationships between community members. The victims, offenders, and members of the community work together to find a solution that repairs, as much as possible, the harm done.
“We are all connected and we all owe each other something,” she said. “We must accept, acknowledge, and buy into this idea. Our relationships are broken and damaged when people do harm to us.”
Restorative practices use dialogue, mediation, and other means to hold offenders accountable for their actions, while also helping them to reintegrate into the community after their responsibilities to the victims and community have been met. In doing so, it allows the offender to make amends and provides closure to the victim.
Despite the system’s promise, it may not be usable in all scenarios. Lee-Gonyea emphasized that restorative justice must be voluntary, otherwise it does not deliver on its own potential.
The Mount’s Criminology major, headed by Lee-Gonyea, explores the varied aspects of crime, from victimization and the criminal justice system to exploring society’s response to criminals and the reasons people break the law. This includes classes on restorative justice.
The talk was part of the college’s Investigating Research on Campus (iROC) program, which aims to provide a forum for Mount faculty, staff, and students to showcase their research endeavors with both Mount Saint Mary College and the local community.
Lee-Gonyea holds a BA in Psychology from West Virginia University, an MS in Criminal Justice from Marshall University, and a Ph.D. in Criminology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Before earning her PhD, she worked at the Supreme Court of West Virginia. Lee-Gonyea worked as an assistant professor of Criminal Justice at Texas International University in Laredo, Texas before joining the faculty at the Mount.