Jenifer Lee-Gonyea, associate professor of Criminology at Mount Saint Mary College, discusses “Using Restorative Justice to Address Serious Harms” during a recent presentation on campus. Lee-Gonyea was recently named a Rockefeller Institute Fellow for 2020-2021.
Jenifer Lee-Gonyea, associate professor of Criminology at Mount Saint Mary College, was recently selected as a Rockefeller Institute Fellow for 2020-2021.
The mission of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government is to improve communities, local and state governments, and federal systems by finding solutions to the nation’s most pressing issues. The institution was founded in 1981.
“I am really excited to be given the opportunity to be part of the Rockefeller Institute and participate in various activities related to my expertise in Criminology and the criminal justice system,” said Lee-Gonyea. “I don’t think there is enough diversity in the voices that discuss these issues and I’m so proud and honored to have been selected to lend my voice to the discussion.”
One of Lee-Gonyea’s main areas of academic research is restorative justice, which focuses on relationships between community members. When a crime is committed, the victims, offenders, and members of the community work together to find a solution that repairs, as much as possible, the harm done. Restorative practices use dialogue, mediation, and other means to provide those who have caused harm with the ability to make it as right as they can, and to give those who have experienced harm an ability to be heard and participate in the process. Used to address crime, restorative justice seeks to involve each of the stakeholders who are important to the resolution. Restorative justice holds 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. Depending on the situation, restorative justice can be used on its own or in conjunction with the existing criminal justice system.
“It’s about making sure that all people have a place in the process and that they have a voice in the process,” Lee-Gonyea explained.
The fellowship gives Lee-Gonyea the opportunity to explore important issues related to Criminology and to reach out to state policy makers.
“Not only will I be able to write and speak about issues such as restorative justice, I will get to shine a light on other issues directly connected to criminal justice that receive little to no attention,” she explained. “Of particular interest to me are issues related to women who are incarcerated. Very little has been done, from a policy perspective, related to the specific issues and concerns that impact this population.”
The issues important to incarcerated women, newly released women, and formerly incarcerated women “are important and need the attention of policymakers,” said Lee-Gonyea. “It’s this interest that led me to create the Women and Crime course (CRI 3550), and I think that the broader public could benefit from this knowledge and conversation the same way that my students have over the past few years.”
Lee-Gonyea was instrumental in creating the Mount’s Criminology major. The major 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. Those who complete the Criminology program will have many career options, including positions in law enforcement, corrections, community service agencies, child welfare programs, adult protective services, mental health, and more.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from West Virginia University, a Master’s in Criminal Justice from Marshall University, and a PhD 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.