The Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation’s (MISJT) mission is to raise awareness of social injustice while engaging in action-oriented projects that lead to progressive social change.
MISJT at Roosevelt University is committed to programing that will raise awareness of the prison pipeline and the larger political, economic, and racial context to promote social change needed in order to help our youth – ALL youth – get on a path toward hope, not incarceration. To this end, the Mansfield Institute is committed to supporting the action-based work of our community partners through research, activism, and advocacy.
Restorative Justice in Schools
The Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation and Roosevelt University students have partnered with Chicago Public Schools to bring Restorative Justice into two schools, Namaste Charter School and Morrill Math & Science Elementary. Through dedication and hard work RU student Peacekeepers helped shift school culture and build relationships that had once appeared beyond repair. Both students and teachers learned to relate with one and other in ways they never had before.
Roosevelt students use RJ practices such as talking circles to build a sense of community and often work one-on-one with students supporting them as they navigate the experience of growing up in the inner city. By providing a safe space for young people they are able to process and problem solve the challenges they face on a daily basis with the support of their classmates and Roosevelt Peacekeepers. This unique space and support gives students the opportunity to deal with issues that may otherwise be ignored. Participants are able to build social skills necessary for adulthood, develop a renewed focus on academics, and are able to move forward in their lives.
These very practices are also used to defuse and repair conflicts within the school. By shifting away from punishment we are able to support and heal youth instead of harming and degrading them. This empowers students to create their own solutions to conflicts and challenges, gives voice to the often silenced “victim” and those indirectly impacted, and uses conflict as an opportunity for the school to come together as a community.
There are many flaws in all levels of our justice system. One shortcoming exists with cases that have been court diverted and put on informal supervision. This means that these cases will not go in front of a judge and youth must plead guilty; in return they are kept out of the Juvenile Detention Center and must check in with a probation officer regularly. Youth at this level of the juvenile justice system receive no special education services that may help them avoid future run ins with law enforcement. Special education services can make the difference between a youth staying in school and a youth entering the criminal justice system. The Mansfield Institute recognizes this problem and has established a special education advocacy office in the Juvenile Detention Center, where in partnership with probation officers and a retired CPS principal, youth receive services to which they are entitled. Working closely with youth and their families, SPED services are explained to families and if mutually agreed upon the SPED services are initiated immediately on site. Afterwards, SPED advocates follow up with families until services are put in place.
Embrace RJ in Schools Collaborative
Grounded in the values of inclusivity and strength in unity, the EMBRACE RJ in Schools Collaborative brings several community organizations together. What was once a landscape of silos, each operating individually in pursuit of their goals, is now a collective of philosophically aligned organizations united under a central mission: to implement and promote restorative justice to support our youth in and out of school. Through collective power and knowledge EMBRACE succeeded in changing the CPS student code of conduct and created an online toolkit for CPS to use in the implementation of restorative justice practices throughout the district. EMBRACE is currently using its collective knowledge and commitment to its mission to bring together principals from the city and the state in partnership with CPS in a forum that will illuminate how RJ can be used successfully in their schools and how to expand its presence throughout the district.
Read Embrace’s Grounding Principals of Restorative Justice